Skip to main content

Valentines Day: Around the Globe

By February 14, 2019Diversity Speaks

Photo Credit: China News


Valentines Day: Around the Globe

By ICDO Member – Lizaveta Vozjakova,
From Russia with Love.

Already feel fed up with this combination of words? I feel you! It is interesting to note how, even among the same culture, there is a division between celebrators and haters of the ‘Day of Love.’ I guess the secret behind the negative reaction from some fellow Russians is that according to “Vzglyad” – the Russian newspaper – Saint Valentine identified as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, so it knocks off some Russians who are famous for their hyper-masculinity. However, some people prefer not to celebrate it simply because they don’t feel like they need a day to commemorate their love. Nonetheless, those are not my excuses to avoid this day. Mine is simple: no man – no problems. Just kidding, one day I might start celebrating this day, however, it is likely to happen in a few decades.

So, what happens when I start celebrating? I would join the other side of the division – romantic Russians. Even though Russian men love to act tough, sometimes they let their beloved ones glimpse their boyish, shy, romantic side. I have to admit, when they want to be romantic – they are very good at it. So now let’s switch from my personal take of the Saint Valentine’s Day and look at the stories surrounding this holiday, taking a sneak peek of its celebration in different parts of the world.

There are a lot of legends surrounding the origins of St. Valentine’s Day. According to, one of the legends about Saint Valentine tells a story of a priest who ignored the order of the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, to stop marrying single men for the military benefit. The priest secretly performed the ceremonies for the lovers and was put to death for breaking the Emperor’s law. Another legend suggests that Saint Valentine when imprisoned, fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and before his death sent her a letter signed “From your Valentine.”

There is one more outstanding story about the origin of the holiday. Some people claim that the secret behind St. Valentine’s Day is simply the effort of the Christian church to disguise the pagan celebration of Lupercalia – the festival of fertility. Unlike the romantic Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia was a very brutal and violent celebration designated to ‘ward off evil spirits and infertility.’

One more interesting fact. In some countries, Love is celebrated several times, because, before the popularization of the Western holiday of love, some cultures had their own celebrations and festivals. Let’s take a look at some of these countries.

China is a country with a lot of traditions and a long, eventful, history. Before western influence, China had its own celebration – the Qixi Festival. The Qixi Festival falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar and celebrates the annual meeting of the mythological characters – the cowherd named Niulang and the fairy Zhinü. Niulang, a simple mortal, tricked the fairy into marrying him. Once they became a family, they fell in love and had two children. Nonetheless, their happiness didn’t last long. The Goddess of Heaven found out that Zhinü married a mere mortal and forced her to come back to heaven. Niulan sacrificed his friend ox and came to heaven. The Goddess became furious and formed a river in the sky that separated the two lovers. But once a year, on the seventh night of the seventh moon, magpies pity the lovers and form a bridge that gives lovers one single night together. You can take a look at the full legend at China Culture.

Photo Credit: GBTimes

In the country of the Rising Sun, the Valentine’s Day is mostly a chocolate holiday for guys. According to OnlyInJapan, on this day women and girls give their male colleagues, friends and even bosses ‘Giri-choco,’ literally meaning ‘obligation chocolate.’ However, only the beloved men in womens’ lives get the unique ‘Honmei-choco’ that is usually prepared by women to represent their true love. In order to thank women, Japan took a step further and created the White Day. On this day, men give women chocolates, flowers, and candies as return gifts to women who designated their time and effort to prepare Valentine’s Gifts for them.

Photo Credit: LiveJapan

The tradition of exchanging gifts is also preserved in the United States and Europe. Usually, both lovers exchange gifts that vary from sweets and flowers to expensive jewellery and high-class restaurants. Sometimes school children exchange cards or small gifts as a symbol of friendship rather than love. In some families it is common to exchange gifts with members of the family as a representation of child-parent love.

Photo Credit: Telegraph

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Are there any specific traditions or rules in your culture or in your family? Share your experience in the comments!