Here in Canada and the US, people might normally celebrate their Valentine’s Day by sending cards or letters, giving gifts or flowers, and arranging meals or romantic nights. This is what we have become accustomed to, and what “February 14th” means to us. However, we miss our international visitors to the Falls who aren’t able to visit due to travel restrictions. and would like to acknowledge them by sharing a few Valentine’s traditions from around the world — especially those with quirky traditions.
Our Japanese visitors don’t just celebrate Valentine’s Day on one day! While typically the men reserve this date to dote on their female love interests, in Japan they play it differently. February 14th is the date in which only the women give the men gifts. Japanese women were once considered to be too shy to express their feelings to the men they are interested in, so this was a date they were able to express their feelings without really saying a word. Typically in Japan, chocolates tend to be the gift of choice that the ladies give the men and actually accounts to half of their annual sales of chocolate sold on the week prior to Valentine’s Day. Reason being, the women give gifts not only to their love interests, but as courtesy and “social obligation” as well.
Exactly a month later, on March 14th, it is the man’s turn to gift the woman. This day is called “White Day”. This is when a man returns the favor to the woman. The lovers that received chocolate or “honmei-choco” meaning “chocolate of love” will return the favour, as well as those that have received “giri-choco” (“courtesy chocolate”). Much like the American culture, the most popular gifts tend to be jewelry, but here is where “White Day” applies — men also may return white chocolate, white lingerie…and marshmellows.
Custom has it that in France and England, Valentines Day originally came to be held in mid February because this was the time of year that birds and animals started pairing off and mating. Eventually it became popular to exchange small tokens and love letters and so the day was born.
A past custom in France (now banned) was an odd one. Called the “une loterie d’amour” or “drawing for love”, Valentine’s Day used to have single people of all ages entering houses that faced opposite each other and calling out through the windows until eventually they paired off with each other. If the male was not attracted to his partner, he would leave her and the woman who is now single would build a large bonfire and ceremoniously burn images of the man who had deserted them, while cursing at the man. It was eventually banned by the French government.
Now, France celebrates Valentine’s Day typically by writing love letters or poems to one another. They are still considered to be some of the most romantic people in the world…
Valentine’s Day or “Valentinstag” in Germany is celebrated on the same day, however the Germans didn’t start celebrating this day until shortly after the second world war. While Valentine’s Day to many of us is reserved for people of all ages, in Germany it is typically only meant for adults. Many gifts are the same — chocolates, cards, and flowers, however, Germany has an interesting twist on the event by introducing a symbol “pig”. Pigs are the symbol of luck and lust. It is not uncommon to find cards or being gifted flowers or chocolates with pigs holding a 4 leaf-clover while climbing a little ladder on a heart.
In Scotland Valentine’s Day is celebrated by having a festival. At the festival there is an equal amount of young single men and young single ladies who get together. Each of them writes on a piece of paper their name and then roll it up. The names are placed in two hats. One for the men one for the ladies. They then have to draw a piece of paper out of the hat. Your Valentine is the name that is drawn.
Gifts are given to the chosen young ladies, and the young ladies would wear the name of their Valentine over their heart or on their sleeve. There is usually a dance at the end of the festival. In Scotland, Valentine’s gifts are given by both parties in the form of a love-token or a true-love-knot.
Named “Dwynwen’s Day”, Valentine’s Day in Wales takes place every year on January 25th instead of February 14th. It commemorates the Welsh Saint Dwynwen, whose ancient and tragic love story has inspired Welsh people for generations to exchange cards and gifts, and to express their feelings.
The ancient story goes that the female princess Dwynwen fell in love with a young prince named Maeron. Maeron reciprocated her feelings but for an undetermined reason, they could not be together. She then prays to fall out of love with him and an angel answers her prayers by bringing her a potion that erases her love for Maeron and he is turned into ice. God then grants Dwynwen three wishes, one of which was to meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers.
To this date, this day is celebrated by giving and receiving lovespoons. They are decorated with romantic symbols on the handle and are given to their love interests. The lovespoon was originally crafted as a labour of love, usually by an untrained wood carver who had little or no prior experience. The woodcarving care that goes into these spoons dates back to the 17th century and expresses love and desire for the woman love interest.
These are just a few International Valentine’s traditions celebrated across the world. We normally have a diverse market of tourists that come and visit our beautiful Niagara Falls and this is one place to visit that celebrates a universal sign of romance with our natural wonder.