The 14th of February is a very special day for many couples out there, because it's all about celebrating your love.
The Valentine’s Day has been becoming a bigger and bigger holiday with each year, despite some of the anti-Valentine’s Day ‘campaigns’ that you might have seen running on Facebook to ‘make the single’ people feel not left out from the lovers’ day.
Surprisingly enough, once a single person enters a relationship – the Valentine’s Day has a whole new meaning for him/her, because they are no longer single and having one more special day a year feels so damn good, does it not?
This is why, those ‘anti Valentine's Day campaigns’ are not taken seriously, but rather as a joke to celebrate the single-hood.
You might already know that USA is not the only country that celebrates The Valentine’s Day, but only in USA this day has become very commercial.
The stores' marketing for the Valentine’s Day shopping starts way in advance – from grocery stores to online shops – the various gift ideas, services and goods, are offered to the customers. Sometimes - too many. The greeting cards are 'telling' us the words we should say to our loved ones, leaving no room for our own creativity and many ideas that we might have come up with by ourselves are not longer a secret - you can pretty much find any idea, any gift to the Valentine's Day.
The edible gifts are made in the forms of hearts and what-not, and such beauty services as spas and salons offer various treatments from couple massages to couple pedicures, while the entertainment places offer deals on shows, movies and romantic dinner accommodations. The shopping streets start glowing red from all the red gift wrapping and red-colored goodies. And while we are indulging in the many ways the American loversvilles are celebrating The Valentine’s Day, other countries are offering their own ways of celebration.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways the Valentine's Day is celebrated in other countries.
The Valentine’s Day in Slovenia is associated with the beginning of the spring.
Slovenians believe that the flowers and the rest of the flora begin to grow on the Valentine’s Day and that the saint Valentine ‘brings the key’ to all the plant roots and that on this very day the nature starts to wake up from the winter sleep.
The Valentine’s Day in Slovenia, the way it means to the Americans, is actually celebrated on March 12 in Slovenia and is tied in with the day remembering the saint Grigory.
Many women in America would love the way the Japanese people celebrate the Valentine’s Day, because it’s not the men who give chocolates to the Japanese women, it’s the other way around – the Japanese women give chocolates to men, and these men are not necessary their partners. In Japan, the women give chocolates to men and those chocolates are not just any chocolates.
Depending on the ‘level’ and kind of the relationship the woman has to the man, the type and quality of the chocolates are different accordingly.
If it’s a boss, coworker and/or just a good acquaintance, the women give them as a Valentine’s Day gift – the “giri-choco” chocolates, a gift with no obligation, just as a sign of a general respect for this man. The word “giri” means - obligation, duty.
However, when it comes to the men, with whom they are romantically involved - boyfriends, husbands and/or lovers, Japanese women give “honmei -choco” chocolates, or the ‘potential winner’ chocolates, but this is not all. As a tradition, the man who gets the ‘honmei-choco’ chocolates has to return the attention with the gifts worth up to three times as much as the woman gave him on the White Day, March 14, on the day when men are celebrating their love to the special women in their lives.
The White Day gift giving is defined by “sanbai gaeshi – the ‘triple gift return’, or, literally, "thrice the return". To leave a woman without returning the attention means arrogance. If the gift the man is giving in return to the woman is of the same value, it is a sign that the man wants to break up with this woman.
Moreover, The Valentine’s Day in Japan is a rare chance for the females of Japan to express their innermost feelings. In Japan men and women rarely display their feelings the way, say, we do here, in America. Their expressions of the feelings are more subtle – one of the reasons you are not going to see many kissing couples on the streets of Tokyo, for example.
But since the celebrations in other countries, especially in America, took a more grand, more commercial way, more modern Japanese teenage girls and young women started to give other gifts as well, similar to the ones given by the couples in America.
Saint Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, which makes her the Welsh equivalent of saint Valentine and it is celebrated on 25 January.
Dwynwen lived during the 5th century and legend has it that she was one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheiniog's 24 daughters. Dwynwen fell in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged that she should marry someone else.
Dwynwen was so upset that she could not marry Maelon that she begged God to make her forget him. After falling asleep, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.
God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen. Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed; her second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers; and third, that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God's service for the rest of her life.
She founded a convent on Llanddwyn, off the west coast of Anglesey, where a well named after her became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465AD. Visitors to the well believed that the sacred fish or eels that lived in the well could foretell whether or not their relationship would be happy and whether love and happiness would be theirs. Remains of Dwynwen's church can still be seen today.
The popularity and celebration of St Dwynwen's Day has increased considerably in recent years.
What comes to the symbol of the love in Wales, it is - a spoon. This tradition has started in the 18th century, when the young men started carving spoons out of wood, decorating it with various romantic signs. They were then giving those ‘spoons of love’ to women they liked.
Traditionally British women go to the fortune teller on the night before the Valentine’s Day to augur on the man who would become their husbands. This is an old tradition that goes back to hundreds of years ago.
Back in the days, the British women would pin to the edges of their pillows the bay leafs – one for each corner of the pillow - and then go to bed, hoping to see the face of the husband-to-be.
However, there’s also another tradition in UK. Young ladies would write the names of the men they liked on a piece of paper, which they would then roll and clay up and throw in the water. Whoever’s paper would float to the surface first, that woman would get married to the man, whose name she’s written on the paper.
Personally, I think it’s a very beautiful, old school tradition that is about to become extinct, if it hasn’t already, like any other old traditions. Men no longer write poems to their women and no singing under the balcony - like Cyrano de Bergerac did it. No longer we expect the unexpected. No longer we try to be more romantic and not just on The Valentine's Day, but on other, regular days. I remember, how once my dad told me that it didn't have to be a 'special day' to show your love to your partner. That is why, in Russia, often, men give flowers to their partners without any 'special' excuse to do so.
Another interesting way to celebrate the Valentine’s Day is by being sad and crying.
On February 14 women give chocolates to men, and men return the favor by giving the gifts to the women on the White Day, March 14 - similar to the Japanese tradition.
However, then comes the Black Day (which has nothing to do with the Black Friday in USA, by the way) – on April 14 those women, who did not get any gifts in return from the men they like, go to a Chinese restaurant and order a special dish – the black noodles and mourn their single-hood.
In Finland, the Valentine’s Day is not for lovers, but rather for friends. The Finish people are celebrating their friends on this day and close friends give each other greeting cards and various gifts.
And for those, who are having their weddings and engagement parties on the Valentine’s Day, are believed to have a good luck in their relationships.
The Chinese analog of the Valentine’s Day - is the day that falls on the seventh day of the seventh month according to the Lunar calendar. This year this day falls on the 13th of August and this holiday is called the holiday of “Qixi Festival” (or, “The Night of the Sevens”), also known as Magpie Festival.
The Mythology of the love story goes that a young cowherd, hence Niulang came across a beautiful girl - Zhinü, the seventh daughter of the Goddess, who just had escaped from boring heaven to look for fun. Zhinü soon fell in love with Niulang, and they got married without the knowledge of the Goddess. Zhinü proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children.
But the Goddess of Heaven found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhinü to return to heaven.
On Earth, Niulang was very upset that his wife had disappeared. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and put on its hide, he would be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife.
Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinü. The Goddess discovered this and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever.
Zhinü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar while taking care of their two children.
But once a year all the magpies in the world would take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge over the star Deneb so the lovers may be together for a single night, which is the seventh night of the seventh moon.
Traditionally, on the Valentine’s Day, the Chinese girls would to pray for love, happiness and marriage, while the single people would pray for meeting their better halves. They also demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband.
If you know of any other Valentine's Day celebrations and traditions, please share, and happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!
Remember, even if you are single today, The Valentine's Day is not just about the celebration of love among the couples, it is also a day to celebrate any other kind of love – love to parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, friends, etc.