Pigs, Magpies, offerings of fruit…how history has made the way we celebrate Valentine’s Day around the world
There may be many differences between countries around the world, however one of the more internationally embraced celebrations shares one of the world’s most beautiful emotions, love.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we take a look at the origins and traditions of Valentine’s Day in some of Sterling’s office locations.
Home to Paris, the “city of love”, France is very much considered the world capital of Valentine’s Day and has claim to the first ever Valentine card, which was sent by Charles Duke of Orleans, a young Frenchman, to his wife while he was in captivity.
One tradition for romantic pilgrims in France is to travel to the village of St Valentin, the self-proclaimed “Village of Love”. The village holds many events and ceremonies dedicated to Valentine’s Day, including marriage vow renewals.
Today, Valentine’s Day in France is celebrated much like the rest of the world, with the exchange of chocolates, flowers and, in keeping with history, messages of love in decorated cards.
One romantic German fable involves Duke Welf, a peasant who led the revolt against King Conrad III. The King’s army overthrew the Duke’s fighters and they found themselves under siege in the King’s castle. On Feburary 14, the Duke’s wife bargained with the King to allow her and the other wives to leave the castle with whatever they could carry on their backs. The King agreed but was surprised to see them leave carrying their husbands.
Valentine’s Day is not considered a major event in Germany as it coincides with carnival season, however you will still find the stores and markets selling flowers, chocolates, gingerbread hearts decorated with frosting and… pigs. Yes, pigs. In Germany, pigs symbolise luck and lust, and are often exchanged in various forms including pictures, statues, chocolates or candies.
Traditionally, the equivalent of Valentine’s Day in China is the “Qixi Festival” or “Qiqiao”, meaning “The Night of the Seven”. Celebrated in early August on the seventh day of the seventh Chinese calendar month, the day originates from a tale about two lovers, Zhinü and Niulangm.
There are many variations of the story but the most popular tells us these lovers were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River, and once a year on this day a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers.
Although some of the ancient traditions associated to this festival are dying out, such as making temple offerings of elaborately carved fruit, the youth of China have devised new and sometimes unorthodox methods to find and celebrate love, including mass blind date events and Kiss Contests where couples have one minute to show off their wackiest kissing positions.
Valentine’s Day celebrations are somewhat new to India, with the economic liberalisation bringing a rise in its popularity.
Due to this, Valentine’s Day is largely celebrated by the younger generations, who have taken the things even further and have created their own tradition, Valentine’s Week! Each day has its own significance, including Propose Day (February 8), Teddy Day (February 10) and Hug Day (February 12).
Valentine’s Day in Japan has two festivals of love and appropriately the two go hand-in-hand.
Historically, it is traditional for women to present gifts of chocolates, or “honmei-choko”, to men on Valentine’s Day, with men having to wait until 14 March, “White Day”, to shower their ladies with presents. Traditionally these gifts should be worth three times the value of the gifts they received (that seems fair, right ladies?!)
Valentine’s Day in South Africa is celebrated much like the rest of the world, however an old-age Roman festival of ‘Lupercalia’ lends itself to truly wearing your heart on your sleeve. Women pin the name of their would-be lovers on their sleeves in the hope that men will discover that they are their secret admirer. In some places, men also follow this custom.
St. Valentine’s Day in Spain is celebrated regionally, with each having their own tradition.
In Catalonia, couples celebrate their love on April 23, with La Diada de Sant Jordi, Catalonia’s national day. This public holiday is also known as El Dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El Dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book). The main event is the exchange of roses and books, hence the Catalan saying “A rose for love and a book forever”.
In Valencia, the most romantic day is later in the year on October 9, the Day of Saint Dionysius (Sant Dionís), the patron saint of lovers. A tradition on this day is offering ladies a Mocaorà, handcrafted marzipan figurines wrapped in silk.
Maybe the most romantic Sterling location is Costa Rica. The Costa Ricans call Valentine’s Day “El Dia Del Amor y la Amistad” meaning “Love and Friendship day”.
Valentine’s Day is so popular in Costa Rica that it is estimated that over 10 million text messages are sent in Costa Rica on this day alone. In a country of only approximately 4.5 million people, that’s a lot of love shared!
With February 14th just around the corner, where in the world will your Valentine be and how will you celebrate together?