Valentines’s Day celebrations around the world

Americans are not the only ones celebrating love

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It can be easy to forget that other cultures exist in the world, but this Valentine’s Day is a great way to appreciate variety. Thanks to this era of globalization, it is possible to observe the cultural diffusion that has taken place between countries which may not share traditions otherwise. This is not the case today, as holidays similar to Valentine’s Day are observed around the world.

Traditions closest to American ones are found in the other English-speaking nations. Canada’s Valentine’s Day, for example, is virtually identical to the American version. The United Kingdom is also very similar. France, which played an integral role in the beginnings of the tradition according to the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (SCFI), also shares similar customs.

SCFI describes Valentine’s Day in India as “a recent phenomenon [that] has caught the fancy of people to a great extent. Though some see it as a western import and hesitate to celebrate, there exists a large and growing number of those who love the feeling behind the beautiful and romantic festival.” The organization also claims that in the weeks leading up to the festival the media begins to get excited, stirring a frenzy, resulting in many stores being decorated in traditional Valentine’s Day style.

Valentine’s Day is not done spreading yet, either. Dr. Elise Lobue, an assistant professor who works in the anthropology department, previously spent some time in Kazakhstan. According to Lobue, “when I was living there about 20 years ago, there was no celebration or observance of the holiday.” In 2011, however, the Kazakh government attempted to celebrate a very similar holiday in mid-April.

Tengri news reported that the celebration would include “singing, dancing and love poetry competitions.” Lobue described this as “primarily young people incorporating a [western] holiday.”

Other nations have their own fascinating customs as well. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by females presenting gifts to any important man in their life. Instead of the favor being immediately returned, as is common in the west, the Japanese also celebrate White Day, which occurs a month later. White Day is essentially the opposite of Japanese Valentine’s Day: The men who previously received gifts then reciprocate.

Japanese women acquire two kinds of chocolate in advance of the holiday, one of which is translated as “obligation chocolate,” and the other as “favorite chocolate.” As one might expect, obligation chocolate is given to men who the woman is not romantically interested in, whereas favorite chocolate is typically more expensive and sometimes homemade. This is designed for romantic interests.

SCFI states on their Valentine’s Day website that “all over the world people celebrate Valentine’s Day by expressing love to sweethearts, spouses and special ones.” Students interested in the topic of Valentine’s Day around the world, or even about the history of the holiday, can find SCFI online.