February 14th is Saint Valentine’s Day, but it’s fair to say that slushily romantic gestures do not always come easily to the people of the North-east. Unless your other half is the demonstrative type, you’re more likely to end up with a cheeky card, a bottle of wine and a takeaway than being whisked off to Paris while carrying an enormous bouquet of red roses. Other nations do things rather differently…
In Ancient Rome, the fertility festival of Lupercalia was celebrated in mid-February. A goat and dog were sacrificed and their hides cut into thongs which were used to whip naked women. This, though we’re not sure how, was thought to ensure fertility. In the 5th Century, the then Pope decided that February 14th was now St. Valentine’s Day.
Americans have a very inclusive approach to Valentine’s Day with school children often sending cards and gifts to many of their classmates. Mexico marks it as a Day of Love and Friendship, so friends and lovers are gifted with balloons, cards, soft toys and flowers. The Germans, by contrast, take a very adult approach, with couples gifting each other pig soft toys, pictures and ornaments. The pig symbolises luck and lust.
In South Korea, women give chocolate to the men in their lives. A month later – and not just because that’s how long it took the chaps to remember – White Day is marked by men gifting their significant others with sweets and chocolate. In Japan, it’s a little more complicated as women are expected to gift workmates with, ‘obligation chocolate’ while keeping the special, ‘true feeling’ chocolate for their romantic interests.
The Danes have a tradition of gifting snowdrops rather than red roses and men will compose funny poems and send them anonymously. If the recipient can guess who wrote the poem, he’s obliged to send an Easter egg later in the year. Better than flowers from the garage!