St. Valentine’s Day: Around the World

Dedicated to the memory of St. Valentine, Valentine’s Day is the occasion when people all over the world profess their love to their sweethearts, buy them presents, and have romantic meals together. However some countries have their own unique practices and neither is Valentine’s Day the only day to celebrate love.

  1. South Africa

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It is customary for South African women to literally wear their hearts on their sleeves on Valentine’s Day. They do so by pinning the names of their sweethearts on their shirts. This is a practice adapted from one of the oldest Roman festivals, Lupercalia, which was celebrated on 15th February before the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire.  In some cases, the practice is a way for men to learn of who their crushes’ sweethearts are by looking at the hearts on their sleeves.

  1. India

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In North India, Karva Chauth holds deeper roots than Valentine’s Day. The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon, in the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Kartik. Married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. Sometimes, unmarried women observe the fast for their fiancés or desired husbands.

There is a wide speculation about how Karva Chauth came to be held only in the Northern parts of India. One premise states that the festival falls during the time of the year when men depart to fight against the Mughal invaders during the 16th century. As such, it is believed that women in that part of region started fasting for the well-being and prolonged life of their husbands.

  1. Peru

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In addition to giving romantic gifts to their significant others, many Peruvians give gifts of appreciation to their friends, co-workers and neighbours. Orchids, which are native to Peru, are given to loved ones instead of roses.

Valentine’s Day is also a popular time for Peruvian weddings, and often, there are not enough venues to accommodate the large number of couples. As such, mass weddings are a common occurrence in the month of February.

  1. Russia

Valentine’s Day in Moscow. Photo by: Vladimir • REC (Flickr)

Valentine’s Day was introduced to Russia in the early 1990’s, following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. It is now widely celebrated and is one of the most popular romantic celebrations in Russia.

Giving flowers to acknowledge special occasions and holidays is considered one of the most romantic gestures in Russian culture. Red roses are the most popular flowers for Valentine’s Day.

  1. Mexico

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In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as Dia Del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship.) Unlike in America, Mexico’s Valentine’s Day takes on a broader tone of celebration for more than just lovers. It is not uncommon to see Mexicans dining with their friends or family on this occasion.

In an old Mexican tradition is still practised, teenage boys and girls stand across, facing each other and will start walking in the direction of the opposite gender. If a boy likes one of the girls, he will hand her a flower. If the girl is still holding the flower when they pass each other later, it means that she likes him back.

  1. Brazil

Valentine’s Day at Botafogo Beach, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by:

Brazil celebrates its equivalent of Valentine’s Day, Dia dos Namorados (Day of the Enamoured), on 12th June.

Dia dos Namorados falls on the day before Saint Anthony’s day (the patron Saint of marriage) and is widely considered why Valentine’s Day is observed in June rather than February. Another possible explanation is that the celebrating Valentine’s Day on 14th February would clash with the Carnival of Brazil, which takes place around the same time (51 to 45 days before Easter).

Although Dia dos Namorados is a special time for couples, it can be dreaded by singletons. However, there is an anti-valentines night for them on 15th June called Dia dos Solteiros (Bachelor’s Day).

  1. Argentina

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14th February is not the only day of the year dedicated to affection in Aregntina.  Another holiday is Semana de la Dulzura (Week of Sweetness) which takes place from 1st – 7th July. During the span of the week, men give sweets to women and receive a kiss in return. Of course the amount of candy they give fixes the amount of kisses they receive! This tradition dates back to 1989 when it was created by Arcor (the biggest sweet company in Argentina) and the Association of Candy Distributors. They developed a new marketing strategy with the slogan ‘A treat for a kiss’, which was a huge success. The tradition carries on till today.

Another special day is Dia Del Amigo (Friendship Day) when Argentines call their friends and go out to dinner on 20th July.

  1. Egypt

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Egypt celebrates 14th February as “hearts day”. Aside from celebrating “hearts day”, Egyptians also celebrate their version of ‘Valentine’s Day’ on the 4th of November.

The Egyptian Valentine is said to be the brainchild of Mustafa Amin, writer and founder of the publishing house, Akhbar al-Youm. Mustafa was said to have been inspired to start a new Valentine’s Day in the 1970s after seeing a funeral with practically no attendees, with nobody following behind the casket as per Egyptian custom. Mustafa was upset by this lack of love, respect, and care for this man.  It bothered him that people could forget about loving one another. From there, he came up with the idea of picking a day to celebrate love. He asked his readers for their choice of a specific date for Valentine’s Day and they chose 4th November.

4th November is more popularly celebrated than “hearts day”.