Valentine’s Day is huge holiday in the U.S and the history of the holiday dates far back. Valentine’s Day rose up at the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love.
Around the world Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for about 1,569 years– leaving plenty of time for specific traditions to build up in individual countries.
In Denmark, rather than giving roses away, friends and couples exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops. The men also give women gaekkebrev, a silly letter with a funny poem or rhyme, signed with a random pattern of dots. If the woman who receives the letter can correctly guess the sender she receives an extra Easter egg later that year.
Meanwhile in France, an interesting tradition was celebrated before being banned by the government. The tradition was the loterie d’amour, translating to the “drawing for love”. Men and women would take turns calling out to each other and eventually pairing off. Men who weren’t satisfied with their match would simply leave for another person, and the women left unmatched gathered afterward for a bonfire.
The event sounds harmless, however at the bonfire the rejected women would burn pictures of men while angrilly calling them out. The bonfires would get uncontrollable and out of hand, which lead to the tradition being banned.
Valentine’s Day celebrations in the Philippines are similar to celebrations in western countries, but one tradition not yet in the west has swept the country: mass wedding ceremonies. The ceremonies have gained popularity, leading hundreds of couples to gather at public areas around the country to get married with a crowd.
South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day similarly to how the U.S does: festivals, flowers and other tokens of love. It’s also normal for women to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14. That is, women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. Often times it results in the exposure of secret admirers to men, who can then chose to act on their knowledge and ask the admirer out.
Leesville, while not participating in mass weddings or angry bonfires, also has one prominent Valentine’s Day tradition: singing Valentines. The Valentine’s offer a personal message and flower, which parallels the tradition of exchanging cards and flowers in America on February 14.
Despite the varied ways of celebrating Valentine’s Day across the world, all countries ultimately recognize it as a celebration of love.