Tis the season to be grumpy! I have a particular dislike for Valentine’s day, – and it’s not for lack of a partner.
I quite simply find Valentine’s day very uninteresting and plain vanilla, and it’s annoying how popular it’s become across the world!
So, in a sign of protest against the upcoming downpour of hearts & chocolates, here’s a list of better Valentine’s day versions around the world:
No Partner? Go to Finland!
In addition to being the awesome land of Santa, elves, and reindeer, Finland also celebrates Valentine’s day better.
In Finland, Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä, which basically translates into “friend’s day”. It’s all about your buddies and nothing about hearts and flowers.
Estonia also joined that friendship team to turned the romantic celebration plaguing our days into a day of friendship.
Happy friend’s day, everyone!
On the Twelfth Day of…Valentine!
No, we are not talking about Christmas anymore, but they are counting down the whole twelve days too. One each month.
South Korea celebrates a romantic holiday on the 14th of every month throughout the entire year—that’s twelve gifts to prepare!
From Candle day, to White day, to Kiss day to movie day to Hug day. And plenty more in between. Shoppers, beware!
When Birds fall in Love…
In Romania, the domestic version of Valentine’s day is called Dragobete.
Dragobete was the son of the pagan embodiment of Spring called Baba Dochia, chosen by Virgin Mary to be the Guardian of Love.
This day is more about spring and nature than love, initially known also as the day when birds fall in love – it’s around this time that the birds begin to build their nests and mate.
The Road to Sainthood Goes Through… Wine
Bulgaria has it even better! The 14th actually coincides with the day of St. Trifon Zarezan, also known as Winemaker’s day.
Also rooted in religion, legend has it that while Trifon was Saint Trifon the Pruner is the Patron of winemakers. Trifon wasn’t always a saint, legend has it he was pruning his vineyard when The Mother of God happened by. The young man, possibly hungover, mocked and taunted her, saying she didn’t know who the father of her son was.
The Virgin ordered Trifon to cut off his nose with his pruning shears, which he promptly did. An odd road to sainthood? There is also another more canonical version of this story, but to be honest, I’m quite fond of this one so let’s keep it at this.
Nowadays, it’s all about sitting near a fireplace, sipping on wine. Sound romantic enough to you? Head to Bulgaria.
A Bookish Substitute for Valentine’s Day
Spain has, just like most other countries, jumped onboard the Valentines wagon, but it still preserves its own cultural jewels.
So if you find yourself in Catalunya Spain on the day of St George – otherwise known as Sant Jordi – you’ll find yourself in a book nerds paradise!
Traditionally, boys give girls a flower and girls give boys a book in return. Catalans have been exchanging books for roses for around 90 years, but after Unesco declared 23 April World Book Day in 1995 is when this tradition really took off!
I’m a personal fan of this Valentine’s day substitute any day!
Heart on My Sleeve
In addition to being one of my top 5 best trips ever (think: penguins, safaris, vineyards, beaches, and mountains!) South Africa has a more straightforward approach to Valentine’s day, choosing to pin the name of their love or crush on their sleeve instead of sending out an anonymous card.
Whatever gets the job done, right?
The Oldest Valentine’s Day Award Goes to… China
This region in China has been dubbed “The Oldest Valentine’s Day” in the East and is way more glamorous than your fad Western celebration.
Picture a full-dress grand parade, long table banquet and bullfight.
Women cook colorful rice dishes which they wrap in silk and offer to serenading men. If the man finds two chopsticks in the package, it’s a clear sign of love. A clove of garlic means, quite obviously, that this romance is not going to happen.
Big Spoon, Little Spoon… Wooden Spoon
In Wales, love spoons are carved to show one’s affection. Dwynwen’s Day on January 25th is when lovespoons are exchanged between lovers – a tradition going back to the 16th century!
But why spoons, you might ask? For one, they’re practical. Then, there’s also that saying that loves goes through the stomach… But I’m just inventing things now.
There’ s been much debate on the significance of the symbols and motifs used in the carving of love spoons. The general consensus is that, since many of the carvers were probably shy, they’d probably use different symbols to convey their feelings.
Over the centuries, more motifs have were added and love spoons became more elaborate. They’re really works of art, too:
Happy Chocolate Day!
If your valentine is chocolate, you’d better head off to Ghana soon. Because the country has formally declared February 14 Chocolate Day instead.
If we’re going to sell it, why not go all the way?
And this one’s especially for you men:
Gender Equality Goes Well with Chocolate
Japan is the place to be in February! Because you will be the spoilt ones receiving chocolate gifts, from women!
There’are two types of chocolate: Giri-choco and Honmei-choco. The first one is meant to be for friends, colleagues, bosses, and close male friends (giri means obligation, so no romance here).
Honmei-choco is given to your true love, and Japanese women often prepare the chocolate themselves – because it’s true love if they just buy the chocolate.
We all want equality, so I’d take this as a fair step forward.
Want to know what takoyaki, cemeteries, and deer have in common?
From the bottom of my heart, a big Bah Humbug to you, Valentine’s Day!
Other countries do it better 😉