February 14. For some, it might seem like another day, but for couples, it’s a day filled with tokens of affection and romantic gestures. Whether one sees Valentine’s day as a time dedicated to celebrating love or an excuse to buy a lot of sweets, one cannot deny its tradition and its impact around the world.
Valentine’s Day traces back to Ancient Rome, but on that February 14, no hands were held and certainly, no lips were locked. Two men with the name of Valentine were both killed on the same day but in different years. The Catholic church commemorated their martyrdom by naming the 14th of February, St. Valentines Day. Over time, the memorial became a celebration as Romans would mingle and drink. It was an evolution. From the death of two men to the love of two people, Valentine’s Day was born. Little did the Ancient Romans know that this day would stretch across the world and bring loved ones together.
In the Philippines, many couples express their vows on Valentine’s Day, resulting in mass marriages. During the Valentine’s Day week in 2015, over 700 couples were engaged or married in Rosario, a municipality in the Philippines. Some celebrations for lower class couples are paid for by the government because of the sheer number of marriages. The holiday holds more significance than other countries as the Philippines forbids divorce, so this day marks not only love and festivities but also a life-long commitment.
Although they don’t traditionally have elaborate weddings on Valentine’s Day, Denmark has its own unique and intimate way of celebrating. Instead of the classic red roses that Americans use, the Danish hand out white flowers called snowdrops. Attached to the flower would be a gaekkebrev, an anonymous letter from one lover to another. The gaekkebrev is meticulously cut and includes a riddle or satirical poem. These letters are known to keep the romance and spark alive between a couple.
One of the most bought delights couples buy for each other or one buys for oneself are chocolates. As a top supplier of chocolate, Ghana’s Valentine’s Day revolves around the decadent treat. It was only a matter of time before February 14th was coined as National Chocolate Day. Every year, tons of tourists travel to Ghana yearning for a taste from the number one chocolate exporter Ghanaians and celebrate Valentine’s Day in a more Americanized way, with gift exchanges, red attire, and chocolate.
Some may say that being single on the day that celebrates romance is excruciating. But what if February 14th is about being single rather than being part of a couple? Estonia covers that. Valentine’s Day in Estonia is really called Sõbrapäev, which translates to Friend’s Day. This holiday honors platonic relationships, family connections, and companionship by the exchanging of gifts, ensuring that no one gets left out.
Having nothing all that, it is apparent that Valentine’s Day is beyond than just delectables, alcohol, and romantic relationships. Different parts of the world hold different traditions and neither one is more special than the other. They all recognize the same idea, that this day is not about the grand gestures and letter writing, but rather, spending time with the ones that dear to one’s heart.
Graphics: Amelia Chen
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