February 7, 2009
Around The World Valentine's Day Celebrations
In the United States and Canada, Valentine’s Day is an extremely popular festival. Here, the day is observed as a holiday. Originally held to honor St Valentine and express love to sweethearts, the scope of the day has come to be so widened that it has now become an occassion to express gratitude and love to not only sweethearts and spouses, but also to teachers, parents or any other close relation or acquaintance. The modern celebrations of the day sees people complementing their dear ones with gifts that include popular items as cards, fresh flowers like rose, chocolates and candies. Dinner and dance parties are specially organized all over the country to celebrate the occasion. Many couples hold private celebrations in homes or restaurants and gift flowers, a box of candy, or some other present to one another. Sending candies on Valentine's Day has been a very popular tradition and it still is. Most valentine candy boxes are heart-shaped and tied with red ribbon. These contain tiny pastel-colored candies shaped like hearts with some lovely messages like "Be Mine", "Thank You" or "Cool Dude" printed on them.
In the US, children celebrate Valentine's Day with great enthusiasm. In keeping with their interest, many schools hold Valentine's Day programmes where little students perform songs, dance, skits and plays. Kids handcraft gifts and cards on this occassion and present them to their friends and teachers. In some schools, the children organize a classroom party and put all the valentines into a box they have decorated. The celebration culminates with a teacher or child distributing the cards. Older students construct candy baskets and gifts, and place on them cards trimmed with hearts and fat, winged children called cupids. They also organize dances and parties. A collective endeavor is made to make the day a special one.
In Britain, St Valentine's Day is celebrated with great fanfare and gaiety. Like in many other countries, the common celebrations of the day has people expressing love for their beloved with gifts like flowers, cards, chocolates and other special items. The traditions of the celebrations of Valentine's Day differs in different regions of the country but one uniform custom is the singing of special songs by children. All over Britain, children sing special songs related to the occassion and are rewarded with gifts like candy, fruit or money. Another popular tradition followed in some areas of England is the baking of valentine buns with caraway seeds, plums, or raisins. This is believed to be a way of celebrating agarian productivity. This connection with fertility and the similar date of celebration are probably the reasons why many writers link the festival of Lupercalia with Valentine's Day.
Composing verses is another extremely well-known Valentine's Day custom of Britain. About a month earlier to Valentine's Day, leading tabloids and reputed magazines publish sonnets and verses to commemorate the occassion. The tradition owes its origin to the British poets who have penned some of the best love poems and the majority of the romantic verses associated with Saint Valentine.
In Italy, Valentine's Day was once celebrated as a Spring Festival. It used to be held in the open air, where young people would gather in brightly decorated gardens to listen to music and the reading of poetry. This custom, however, steadily ceased with the passage of time, and has been out of practice for a long long time. In modern day Italy, Valentine's Day is mainly seen as a holiday imported from US, just like Halloween, Father's Day or Mother's Day.
The day is celebrated mainly by the young people who take this opportunity to profess love to their sweethearts the American way with gifts like perfume, chocolates, flowers, cards or jewelleries. The day is seen here earmaked exclusively for lovers, and hence, family members and friends do not exchange gifts. Couples usually go out for dinners at pizzeria or ristorante which ends with lovers' giving gifts to each other. A popular Valentine's Day gift in Italy is Baci Perugina - a small, chocolate-covered hazelnut containing a small slip of paper with a romantic poetic quote in four languages.
In Denmark, February 14 is mainly a day for the young. It's a time for romance and exchanging of love tokens. Here, the festival is celebrated in a very conventional manner. Young people send to their beloveds a valentine card on this occassion. The Danish valentine card is famously known as a "lover's card". Earlier, these came in the form of transparent cards which, when kept before light, reflected the picture of a lover handing over a wonderful present to his beloved. Nowadays, many newer varieties of lover's cards have come up and every year before Valentine's Day card shops all across the country are seen to be stacked up with colorful and musical lover's cards containing lovely Valentine messages. Another Danish Valentine's Day custom is to send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops to friends. The season of love is also a time for fun what with many Danish men sending to their ladylove a form of valentine known as a gaekkebrev (or "joking letter"). This gaekkebrev is a type of romantic letter that contains a rhyme penned by the sender himself. The fun part of this custom is that the letter doesn't have the name of the sender. Instead, the lover signs the message with dots...one dot for each letter in his name. If the lady whom he sends the gaekkebrev correctly guesses his name, he rewards her with an Easter egg during Eastertide.
In Japan, Valentine's Day is observed on February 14 but the celebration of love truly ends on March 14, known as the "White Day". On the first date, women present chocolates or gifts to the men they love to express their feelings for them. Gifting chocolates is a typical way to celebrate Valentine's day in Japan for chocolate is the most popular gift in the country. Hence, it is a must for Japanese Valentine's Day celebrations. Gift shops all over Japan pile their shelves with chocolate a month before Valentine's Day. Most Japanese females believe however, that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true love. Hence, they tend to make the confection all by themselves.
But it's also common for women to give chocolates to any man close to them, such as co-workers and male friends, whom they don't actually love. This kind of chocolate-gift is called giri-choco which mean chocolates given because of obligations. Men who receive chocolates or gifts on Valentine's day are supposed to return the favour to the women on March 14, exactly a month after Valentine's Day. Also known as "White Day", this is the time when men are to give back a gift to the women who gave them gifts just a month before. The tradition is believed to have been introduced by a marshmallow company in the 1960s.
The Valentine's Day celebrations in Korea is quite akin to the Japanese observance of the festival. As in Japan, Korea witnesses gifting of chocolates and candies from females to males. The favour is returned the same way by the men on March 14, which is referred to as "White Day" similar to the custom in Japan. But "White Day" here is a Valentine's day in its own right as many young men confess their love for the first time to their sweethearts on this occassion.
And then there is April 14, also known as "Black Day", which has been specially set aside for those young people who have no particular romantic partners. The curious name of the day probably comes from the fact that on this date, individuals who are not in any relationship get together and partake of Jajang noodles, which are black in color.
The German celebration of Valentine's Day is nearly the same as elsewhere in the world. For Germans, the festival is a celebraton of love and a time to spend with their sweethearts. In Germany, it is customary for a young man to present his beloved with flowers on February 14. Valentine gifts in Germany are usually in the shape of love tokens, complete with lovely messages. But these are not entirely restricted to Valentine's Day celebrations, and can be gifted on any occasion of a joyous nature.