In many countries, February 14 is Valentine’s Day, the Feast of Saint Valentine and a significant cultural and commercial celebration. Although Valentine’s Day originated from the Western countries, this romantic day is widely celebrated around the world. It is a much commercialized event, with an average annual spending of $13 billion for Valentine’s Day and about 180 million Valentine’s Day cards being exchanged annually!
Love is a global language and although it is celebrated and expressed in many different ways around the world, the message is the same. Commercial events such as Valentine’s Day see a variety of cultural traditions. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are examples of the similarities and differences of the celebration from country to country:
On Valentine’s Day in 2007, Philippines broke Hungary’s world record of having a total of 6,124 couples kissing simultaneously for at least 10 seconds. This popular day of affection prompts the local governments to organize mass weddings in the Philippines under the Civil Registrar Offices. It is mostly for couples who wish to formalize their relationships, but do not have the financial means to do so. In 2016, about 350 Filipino couples took their wedding vows in the joyous occasion held in Manila.
Valentine’s Day celebrations in Japan originate from Western culture and was introduced for commercial purposes. It became widely popular among the Japanese after a successful campaign by Isetan department stores.
It is customary for women to give chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day. Giri-choco, obligatory chocolate, are given without any romantic interest. Honmei-choco, which are usually home-made, are given to the woman’s romantic interest. Men in Japan are to return the favor by giving back a gift, at least two or three times more valuable than what they received, one month later on White Day, March 14.
South Koreans follow similar Valentine’s Day traditions as the Japanese, but with their own twist. In addition to the celebrations on February 14 and March 14, single people in South Korea also observe Black Day on April 14. On Black Day, single people who did not receive presents on Valentine’s Day or White Day get together to eat noodles covered in black bean paste, a dish known as jjajang myeon. Although not as widely celebrated, South Korea has roughly 11 other holidays devoted to love!
Traditionally, men write poems or rhymes and decorate the letter by cutting beautiful patterns into the paper. The anonymous letter, Gaekkebrev, is signed with dots, with each dot representing a letter of the man’s name. The lady receives an egg at Easter if she was able to guess who the sender was. Otherwise, she has to gift the sender an Easter egg instead.
Like in many other countries, couples in South African celebrate the special day by spending time with their loved ones and exchanging Valentine’s Day gifts. Young women in South Africa have the tradition of pinning their lover’s’ name on their sleeves. In some regions, men follow the same custom.
Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14, the Welsh celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day on January 25. Couples exchange intricately carved wooden spoons, also known as lovespoons, on this special occasion. It is a tradition that dates from the 16th century, which is still observed today.
China’s version of Valentine’s Day is the Qixi Festival, which falls on the 7th day of the 7th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. Whenever this day falls, it is a popular wedding date for Chinese couples.
Commercial celebrations such as Valentine’s Day demonstrate the diversity of our world and how people express emotions like love and affection. For anyone interacting with customers at a global level, communication has to be culturally adapted to accommodate the similarities and differences. Globalization and localization helps you to get your message to new markets in a way they understand.
Regardless of where and how you are celebrating this day of love and affection, Welocalize wishes you a Happy St Valentine’s Day!
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Read Welocalize Blog: How to Say Love in 30 Different Languages