Mary Jo Bellner-Swartzberg
Much has been written about Valentine’s Day over the centuries. Shrouded in mystery, Valentine’s Day has the vestiges of Roman, Catholic, and pagan traditions. History has indicated that Valentine greetings date back to the Middle Ages.
It may not surprise anyone that Valentine’s Day is big business—in 2019 Americans spent $20.7 billion for Valentine’s Day. Other countries celebrate this heart holiday as well.
From Central America to France, Valentine’s Day is a day set aside for love. Here are some interesting ways that other cultures around the world celebrate this day.
In Wales, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Jan. 25 to commemorate Saint Dwynwen, the nation’s patron saint of love. The history behind this saint includes a marriage gone awry, a convent, and a lover that has been frozen—not exactly the sweet notion of a lover’s special day. To celebrate this day, however, people who want to show their love exchange “love spoons,” which are ornate wooden utensils that include symbols which express various sentiments.
On Valentine’s Day in The Philippines regional governments have been sponsoring state-supported mass weddings since 2012. Each local government pays for all the costs for a wedding, including the reception, wedding cakes, and bouquets of flowers. The regional government indicates that it is a way to help cash-poor couples become married in the eyes of God and the law.
Most Latin American countries celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is considered a day of love and friendship. In El Salvador, however, people practice a game called Secret Friend. Friends, members of families, co-workers, and classmates write names on a small piece of paper. Then each person secretly picks one and gets a gift for that person. When it’s time to present the gifts, everyone makes a circle and takes turns saying one good quality about their secret friend. Then the others have to take turns guessing for whom the gift is for. The game is akin to the Secret Santa game played at Christmas time in the U.S., but with more consideration and affection.
Who would think that Valentine’s Day and wine shared a history? In Bulgaria Valentine’s Day is synonymous with the patron saint of winemakers, St. Trifon Zarezan. The old branches of grapevines are trimmed to prepare the plants for the summer, when men prune the grapevines and then pour wine into the ground to enhance the soil’s fertility. A wine king, who has had the best harvest, hosts a feast at his house with wine and food. Essentially, each holiday—Valentine’s Day and the celebration of St. Trifon Zarezan day—are jointly celebrated with wine and merriment!
Valentine’s Day in Peru is in alignment with its summer carnival season. Tradition is for Peruvian couples to exchange flowers, not unlike in the U.S.; the Andean nation has roughly 3,000 varieties of flowers. The choice of flowers is not roses, but, instead, orchids!