According to old Welsh folklore, instead of what is known as St. Valentine, St. Dwynwen is instead celebrated. St Dwynwen is believed to have been a woman who, for reasons which vary through story to story, was not allowed to be with the man she loved. As a result, when an angel appeared to her in her dreams she wished for her love from him to cool. Instead, he was turned into a block of ice. In order to undo the curse on him, she wished firstly to unfreeze him, secondly for future couples to find each other and finally to remain unmarried. As a result, she later devoted herself to the church as a nun. Since then she has been known as the romantic Saint. For this occasion, love spoons which are engraved and carved of wood are given by couples to each other.
Valentine’s Day in Denmark is not as much a fanfare as it is in other countries, but still the Danes have managed to invent a few traditions of their own for the event. Typically, on Valentine’s Day, men send little love poems or notes to women. However, instead of simply signing the note or poem with his name, the man instead signs off with a number of dots – a dot for each letter of his name. If the woman manages to figure out the name of her admirer, she is rewarded with an egg at Easter. However, if she is unsuccessful, she has to buy her admirer an egg instead.
Although Valentine’s Day is celebrated to a similar extent to that of Japan (below), the single population is also given an opportunity to celebrate, or even mourn, their single status. This opportunity is known as ‘Black Day’. The reason for the name is to do with the custom on this day – for single people to meet up and eat black noodles together. The white noodles are black in colour as they are covered in a black bean sauce. Depending on different viewpoints, Black Day can either be viewed as a day of celebration, one in which to get together with friends and have fun, it can also be viewed as a sad reminder of each own’ s lack of romantic partner. Although to brighten the mood, South Koreans have plenty of other days to celebrate – on the 14th of each month in fact, with events such as ‘Kiss Day’, ‘Hug Day’ and ‘Music Day’.
According to tradition, in the 18th century, unmarried women in England used to pin bay leaves to the corners of their pillows. In doing so, it was thought that they would have dreams of their future husbands.
According to other English traditions dating back to the late 16th century, gloves were a traditional Valentine’s Day gift for women from male suitors. In fact, women were said to utter the phrase “Good-morrow Valentine, I go today; to wear for you, what you must pay; A pair of gloves next Easter Day’’ to men of their choosing. It was then, the chosen male’s customary obligation to buy the woman a pair of gloves in time for Easter.
These days, England tends to adopt the overall Americanised custom of exchanging Valentine’s cards, chocolates, flowers and other varieties of gifts.
As is a typically American custom, the Japanese gift their romantic partners chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but to the Japanese, the gift of chocolate has much more significant and expressive sentiment than the usual box of American chocolate hearts. However, unlike the usual custom of men providing women with chocolate, on Valentine’s Day, it is the women who buy chocolate for the men. Furthermore, it is not just reserved for romantic partners, but women are often expected to give chocolate to platonic males in their lives such as family members and friends or even colleagues.
Men are given the chance to return the favour a month later on ‘White Day’ (so called as white is a symbol of purity and love) in which men often give women chocolates, flowers or jewellery as gifts, amongst other things. The whole custom of giving chocolate on these two occasions in Japan stems from a chocolate manufacturer’s idea to increase sales by running an advert in a local paper. As a result, other companies caught on to the idea, and started promoting their chocolates as a romantic gesture, and since then it has become an important annual tradition.
These are just a few examples of how St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world. Here at Express Language Solutions, we would love to hear your views and stories of how St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in your country.
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!