Valentine’s Day’s Christian roots might be responsible for making the holiday predominantly popular in the West, but the annual celebration of love has nonetheless caught on in cultures around the world that have adapted and put their own spin on Valentine’s traditions. Below is a list of interesting traditions from across the globe.
Japan: Japanese Valentine’s tradition switches up traditional gender roles around the holiday, with women often presenting chocolates to men instead of vice versa. Many women will also take the extra step of making their own chocolate to give as gifts on the holiday, though stores are nonetheless packed with premade chocolate starting in mid-January. The country’s national confectioners association pushed a successful campaign in the 1980s to make March 14 a day when men could return the favor with white chocolate, which is why the March holiday is known as “White Day.”
Ghana: Though Ghanaians have adopted many of the same Valentine’s traditions as other parts of the world, since 2007, Feb.14 has also been known as “National Chocolate Day” in Ghana, one of the world’s largest cocoa exporters. The move, which aims to promote Ghana’s contribution to chocolate production through museum exhibits and special chocolate-themed restaurant menus, was pushed by the country’s tourism ministry as a means of attracting visitors to the West African nation.
Philippines: One Valentine’s Day tradition that has become increasingly popular in the Philippines is the mass wedding celebration, which brings together hundreds of couples in large, open spaces across the country to be married in a colossal public ceremony. Around 4,000 couples were married in Valentine’s Day mass wedding ceremonies in 2013.
Guatemala: Valentine’s Day is known as El Día del Cariño in Guatemala, where affection for friends and family is as important as with romantic partners. Guatemala City marks the holiday with lots of colorful pageantry, with revelers dressing up in feathered masks and Mayan-inspired clothing, as well as a senior citizen’s parade.
South Africa: Some young South Africans celebrate Valentine’s Day by pinning the name of their sweetheart to their sleeve, in a tradition that is known in the country as Lupercalia, in reference to the ancient Roman fertility festival that preceded Valentine’s Day in the West.
Estonia: In Estonia, Valentine’s Day is called “Friend’s Day” so that single people are not left out of the festivities. While streets may still be decorated with hearts and other Valentine’s symbols, there is also an emphasis on nonromantic love, with friends and family members exchanging presents on the holiday. But if you’re still looking for romance, singles also have the opportunity to take a ride on a special “love bus” on the holiday.