Valentine’s Day tends to get somewhat of a bad rap. Admit it, the cynic within us can at times view Valentine’s Day as an engineered holiday, where corporations use “love” merely as a façade to rouse oblivious, love-struck couples into splurging on meaningless objects as a so-called “token of our affection”. While on the other hand, our inner optimist truly believes that Valentine’s Day presents an opportunity to express our admiration for those closest to us.
Oh, the inner turmoil!
Truth be told, Valentine’s Day was never dreamt up by greedy CEO’s lying on a bed full of diamonds and cash, because turns out… Valentine, or should I say SAINT Valentine, was actually a real guy who lived well over one thousand years ago! *** Team “Inner Optimist” for the win! ***
Although not much is actually known about Saint Valentine himself – trust me… I did my research – it IS widely accepted that he is the Patron Saint of happy marriages, love and engaged couples, and that the day of his death on February 14th has been associated with “courtly love” since the Middle Ages. AKA… the so called, modern “corporate” holiday that so many of us seem to take issue with, has actually been around for YEARS, and is celebrated ALL around the globe!
So in an effort to embrace the true essence of what Saint Valentine represents, while simultaneously keeping our inner cynic at bay, I’m delving into the various ways that three different cultures celebrate love in February!
One Holiday… Celebrated Three Ways
I wanted to start off with Romania for two reasons; A. because my boyfriend is actually FROM Romania so I selfishly wanted to get a little inside scoop on “love” within his culture (I need to know what I’m getting myself into here, right?!) and B. because their celebration of love during February is totally and utterly unique!
Rather than celebrate love on the 14th, Romanians instead honour a traditional holiday on the 24th of February called Dragobete, AKA. “Romanian Valentine’s Day”!
In celebration of both the coming of spring AND love, it’s tradition that young men and women congregate in front of the village church before heading into the woods in search of newly bloomed flowers. It’s during this excursion that men and women are supposed to pair up, thus representing luck in love for the remainder of the year!
The not so great news? If you just so happen to be one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t find a “partner” during the outing, legend goes that you’ll remain single until the NEXT Dragobete.
Side Note: My inner Wallflower is having major high-school dance flashbacks! Anyone else?!
Although many Romanians now celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 14th, the Dragoebete holiday is still very much part of their culture!
Step aside ladies… because on Valentine’s Day in Japan, it’s all about the MAN!
Anxiety-ridden men frequenting floral shops in a desperate search for the last, lonely bouquet of long-stem roses has become somewhat of a “Valentine Tradition” here in the West, no? Well get ready to engage in a little role reversal here. Japanese women are actually the ones flocking to department stores in search of the perfect present for the men!
And the gift of choice? Chocolate!
It’s tradition for women to give chocolate to their male friends, coworkers, bosses, and loved ones on Valentine’s Day; with different varieties of chocolate reserved for different types of relationships!
Store bought chocolates, otherwise known as obligation chocolates, are typically gifted to men with whom the woman shares a friendly or platonic relationship. Homemade or more expensive chocolates are reserved solely for romantic relationships.
What’s even more unique about this celebration, is that exactly one month after Valentine’s Day on March 14th, the Japanese celebrate White Day! It’s on this day that men are supposed present gifts to women with, you guessed it…. chocolate!
What a world it would be if, as a single gal, you didn’t have to agonize for practically months prior to the looming, never-ending “love-fest” that is Valentine’s Day?! Let’s be real, Valentine’s Day can be quite daunting if you’re single. BUT the Finnish may very well be onto something because the 14th is actually all about celebrating friendship!
Yep, it’s literally called Friend’s Day and it is AMAZING!
Instead of dropping some serious coin, while wining and dining your significant other, the Finnish exchange cards and small gifts with friends and relatives. No cinnamon hearts or plush teddy bears here my friends. Simply a small token of appreciation for the people in your life that you care most about, romantic or not!
Cost-effective AND inclusive?! I’m thinking this is a win, win situation for everyone involved!
Love’s Got the Last Laugh?
So while the negative stigma associated with Valentine’s Day may be very real in today’s society, it’s clear that underneath all of the corporate smoke and mirrors, love and appreciation for those around us is still at the core of this sweet holiday.
Sure, we may “give in” to corporations by splurging on a few chocolates here, and a couple of cheesy cards there… but we do it because we care about the person we’re gifting it to. So whether you’re buying chocolates for your man in Japan, writing simple cards for your friends in Finland or picking flowers with a crush in Romania, it’s all in the name of L.O.V.E…. and really, who can argue with that?!
Happy Valentine’s Day!