13 Unique Valentine’s Day Traditions Around the World

Last updated on June 20th, 2024 at 01:37 am

What countries celebrate Valentine's Day: couple making a heart shape using their hands

Which countries celebrate Valentine’s Day? What are some of the sweetest Valentine’s traditions? Keep reading this Remitly guide to learn about Valentine’s Day around the world, along with other holidays of love.

The best global Valentine’s traditions (and more)

We think these Valentine’s Day traditions and celebrations of love are among the sweetest and most surprising.

  • South Korea: A series of love days – women gift men on Feb 14, and men return the favor on White Day (Mar 14).
  • Italy: Traditional celebrations with Baci Perugina candies and romantic dinners.
  • South Africa: Women pin the names of their crushes on their sleeves.
  • China: Celebrates with Qixi Festival in August, focusing on a star-crossed couple from mythology.
  • Argentina: Sweetness Week in July, where kisses are exchanged for candies.
  • Denmark: Secret lovers send ‘gaekkebrev’, anonymous love notes.
  • France: Purely romantic, with dinners and special gifts.
  • Japan: Women gift chocolates to men, who reciprocate on White Day.
  • Brazil: Sweetheart’s Day on June 12, with love and friendship celebrations.
  • Wales: St. Dwynwen’s Day on Jan 25, with wooden spoon carving tradition.
  • Ghana: National Chocolate Day, focusing on the country’s rich chocolate heritage.
  • Philippines: Mass weddings, a popular tradition on Valentine’s Day.
  • Czech Republic: Kissing under a tree on May 1, inspired by a classic poem.

Read on for more, and discover love in every corner of the world.

The roots of Valentine’s Day

The Duke of Orleans sent the first known Valentine from the Tower of London in 1415. At the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I officially replaced the ancient Rome festival Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day, naming the day after the patron saint of lovers.

In the United States, the modern holiday is associated with Hallmark greeting cards, images of Cupid, and gift-giving.

1. South Korea: Not just Valentine’s Day

For young South Korean couples, Valentine’s Day is very special, but it’s only one of many events dedicated to love. On February 14, women give gifts to men consisting of flowers, chocolates, and candies. The men reciprocate and buy presents for women on March 14, known as “White Day.”

Singles aren’t left out, though their dedicated day is a tad bitter. On April 14, known as “Black Day,” single people gather with friends to eat black noodles called jajangmyeon—some even wear black to mourn their single status.

However, South Korea shifts the focus back to love on June 14, the “Day of Kisses.”

2. Italian traditions new and old

A long time ago, Italians celebrated Saint Valentine’s Day as part of the ancient Roman festival for spring. Lovers would gather in gardens, reading poetry and sharing music. Then, the Catholic Church introduced Valentine’s Day in honor of Saint Valentine.

Another tradition in Italy encouraged young unmarried girls to awaken early, as it was said the first man they spotted before dawn would be their husband within the year. In Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, locals decorate the squares with heart-shaped lanterns.

Italy now celebrates Valentine’s Day in a more modern manner.

Couples plan special dinners and almost always gift Baci Perugina, an Italian candy made using chocolate-covered hazelnuts, to one another. The candy wrapper even includes a romantic quote in four different languages.

3. Love notes in South Africa

Today, women from South Africa follow the ancient Roman tradition of Lupercalia that started it all.

On Lupercalia, many South African women take a pen and paper, write the name of whoever they’re interested in, and pin it to their sleeve. It’s more direct than a love letter!

This is, in fact, the origin of the saying, “A woman who wears her heart on her sleeve.” It’s common for men to find out about a secret admirer on this day.

What countries celebrate Valentine’s Day: close up shot of chocolates

4. Festivals of love in Chinese culture

People of Chinese descent around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers, chocolates, and small gifts.

But February 14th isn’t the main day for romance in Chinese culture. In fact, Valentine’s Day is eclipsed by August’s Qixi Festival, which celebrates a star-crossed couple from Chinese mythology. It’s also known as the Double Seventh Festival.

In South West China, young women prepare meals of colorful rice for their would-be future husbands during the Sister Meal Festival. The event date changes each year but occurs during the third month of the lunar calendar.

Men eagerly wait to see what dish will be served to them. If their bowl contains two chopsticks, it means the romance will continue, but finding garlic means the woman wishes to call it quits.

Other festivals dedicated to love in China, Taiwan, and Singapore include the Lantern Festival during the Lunar New Year and the lesser-known Shangsi Festival. Presenting romantic partners with ninety-nine roses has also become a tradition throughout Asia.

5. Sweetness Week in Argentina

Valentine’s Day in Argentina takes place on February 14, and Argentinians celebrate it very much in the same way other countries do.

However, for Argentinians, the special day in February is only the precursor to a longer celebration known as “Sweetness Week.” Sweetness Week, which only started in 1989, happens in July.

During the entire week of Sweetness Week, friends and lovers alike exchange kisses and candies, and the week wraps up on “Friendship Day,” when friendships of all kinds are celebrated and appreciated.

Argentina isn’t the only country celebrating non-romantic friendships on a special day. For instance, February 14th is known as Friend’s Day in Finland and Estonia.

6. Mystery notes in Denmark

Valentine’s Day is a fairly new celebration in Denmark—dating back only as far as the 1990s. Danes have the Netto Supermarket to thank for the tradition, which started selling products with a romantic theme during the month of February.

These days, younger Danish people give pressed white flowers called snowdrops along with anonymous notes called “gaekkebrev.”

If their recipient correctly guesses who sent the note, they get a candy Easter egg when Easter rolls around.

Love notes

7. Romantic dinners in France

In France, Valentines Day, or La Fête de Saint Valentin, is for lovers.

Unlike in the U.S., where Valentine’s Day is a day of love and friendship, February 14th is considered purely a day for romantic love in France.

While some couples consider the day a commercial affair and make no effort to mark it, many like to exchange gifts with their sweethearts, buying flowers, perfume, and jewelry.

According to one study, 60% of French couples celebrating Valentine’s Day go out for a meal, 21% cook at home, and 14% simply head out for a drink.

8. Obligatory chocolate in Japan

Gift-giving is an important part of social interaction in Japanese culture, so the Valentine’s Day tradition of expressing love with candy caught on quickly when it was introduced in the 1930s by confectionery companies.

However, Valentine’s Day in Japan looks quite different from Western norms.

On February 14th, women are expected to buy chocolate gifts for the important men in their lives, including their romantic partners, friends, and family members.

There are different names for these chocolate gifts, depending on the relationship:

  • Giri-choco, translated as “obligation chocolate,” is intended to show gratitude to male friends and work colleagues.
  • Honmei-choco is reserved for a significant other.
  • Jibun-choco is a gift you give to yourself.

While women are expected to do all the work buying or preparing homemade chocolate on Valentine’s Day, men in Japan don’t get to opt-out. One month later is White Day, when men are expected to return the favor and honor the women in their lives with white cakes or candies.

9. Valentine’s Day traditions in Brazil

Unlike most other countries, Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados, which translates to Sweetheart’s Day or Lover’s Day in Portuguese, on June 12th.

This date change is for good reason. February 14th falls in the middle of Carnival, one of the biggest events on the Brazilian calendar, so most people are too busy for a celebration of love.

On the other hand, June 13th is Saint Anthony’s Day, the patron saint for recovering lost items and blessing young couples, so it makes sense to celebrate the two days close together.

A unique Valentine’s Day tradition in Brazil is simpatias. These offerings to Saint Anthony are from women hoping to meet the right man.

Simpatias include dipping an image of St. Anthony in water, putting a rose in a glass of water with a pinch of salt, then bathing in the water two days later.

Person holding two wooden spoons

10. Celebrating St. Dwynwen’s Day in Wales

The Welsh have their version of Valentine’s Day on January 25th: St. Dwynwen’s Day.

Now the Welsh patron saint, Dwynwen was a Welsh princess who fell in love with a young man named Maelon.

Unfortunately for the pair, her father had promised her to another prince. In despair, Dwynwen prayed for help, and an angel gave her a potion that would help Dwynwen forget her troubles.

The potion had the side effect of turning Maelon into ice. Dwynwen prayed again, and this time, God granted the princess three wishes: that Maelon would be thawed, she would not have to marry anyone, and God would take care of all true lovers.

Just like on Valentine’s Day in other cultures, St. Dwynwen’s Day in Wales is celebrated with the exchange of Valentine’s Day cards, candlelit dinners, and gifts.

One unique custom? Carving wooden spoons to be given as presents.

11. Sweetening things up in Ghana

Ghana is home to one of the most unique Valentine’s Day traditions. Instead of the holiday being primarily a romantic day, February 14th is National Chocolate Day.

In 2007, the Ghanaian government instituted a national holiday to raise awareness about the chocolate industry. The country is the second-largest chocolate producer in the world, exporting around 850,000 metric tons annually.

While many Ghanaians give and receive gifts for Valentine’s Day, Ghana is best known for the Chocolate City in Accra. Both locals and tourists flock to the venue to sample delicious chocolates and learn more about chocolate production in honor of National Chocolate Day.

12. Mass nuptials in The Philippines

Weddings are common on Valentine’s Day around the world, as many couples find the day to be the perfect time to say, “I do.” However, public weddings are a famous part of Valentine’s Day traditions.

Each year, hundreds of couples gather in Sual in Pangasinan within the Manila Metro area to participate in a huge mass wedding. The mayor officiates the event, marrying all of the couples at one time.

Smaller mass weddings also occur in other cities across The Philippines.

13. Kissing under trees in the Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, couples celebrate love with a one-of-a-kind tradition. However, the country’s annual celebration of love occurs on May 1 rather than February 14.

People credit Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha for inspiring the alternative date with the poem May, which starts with the lines, “Late evening, on the first of May, the twilight May, the time of love.”

The day also coincides with Labor Day, meaning most people have the day off.

Although Czech people follow many common Valentine’s Day traditions like exchanging presents, such as red roses and candy, there is one unique custom for May 1. At some time during the day, young people who are in love exchange kisses under birch or cherry trees.

In addition to stealing a smooch beneath branches, some people pick flowers to leave at the monument dedicated to Mácha in Prague.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day your way

Whenever the most romantic day of the year is where you live, we hope you enjoy the celebration. If you’re sending a Valentine’s Day gift to South Africa, Brazil, China, Argentina, or somewhere else this year, Remitly makes it easy to send money safely to your loved ones around the world. Just download the Remitly app to get started.

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