Cultural studies are very important to teach children in order to ensure that they have an enlightened view of the world. It is good to study cultures and societies other than our own to get a deeper perspective of how different people perceive the world. Cultural studies are a complicated topic that generally branches out into major communicative, psychological and sociological considerations. However, everyone must start somewhere and the best way to first introduce the complex topic of culture to small children is via fun and interesting lessons. For February, exploring how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in other nations is a great way to interest children in the traditions of others.
In the United States, Canada, England, and Australia Valentine’s Day is usually celebrated by people giving loved ones cards, candy, and flowers. However, some cultures do things quite differently. For example, in Japan and South Korea women are expected to give men candy on Valentine’s Day—the polar opposite of Western traditions! Men are expected to reciprocate the woman’s generosity with candy and gifts one month later, on March 14th known as “White Day.” In Norway and Denmark, Valentine’s Day is known as Valentinsdag and is a considered a holiday imported from American culture. Although it is not hugely popular in these nations, some people still make a special effort to show extra affection towards their loved one on this date via gifts like cards and flowers or a romantic dinner. Meanwhile, Sweden refers to Valentine’s Day as “All Hearts Day” (“Alla hjärtans dag” in Swedish) and it is a holiday that was promoted excessively by the flower industry in the 1960s after being influenced by the way Americans celebrated romance.
Finland and Estonia celebrate Valentine’s Day as “Friend’s Day” (“Ystävänpäivä” in Finish and “Sõbrapäev” in Estonian) and it is more centered on honoring friendships instead of romantic partners. Interestingly, this is largely the same as many countries in Latin America where Valentine’s Day is known as “Dia del Amor y la Amisatd” (translated from Spanish to mean “Day of Love and Friendship”). In countries including Mexico, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica people use the occasion to perform acts of appreciation for their friends and acts of affection for their loved ones. In fact, in Guatemala Valentine’s Day is called “Affection Day” or “Dia del Cariño.”
Meanwhile, in other countries there are days that celebrate love on a date other than February 14th. For example, in Romania “Dragobete” is celebrated on February 24th and is considered to be a holiday for lovers. In Columbia the holiday known as “Amigo Secreto” (“Secret Friend”) is celebrated the third Saturday in September. In Brazil there is no such thing as Valentine’s Day, but there is “Dia dos Namorados” (meaning “Lover’s Day” or “Boyfriend/Girlfriend’s Day”) which is celebrated on June 12th, the day before Saint Anthony’s day, which is fitting since Saint Anthony is known to Brazilians as “the marriage saint.” During Dia dos Namorados, men and women in relationships exchange gifts such as chocolate, candy and flowers (the same as Valentine’s Day in the USA). However, the Brazilian version of Valentine’s Day is much more centered on romantic love than American Valentine’s Day, which also honors love such as that between families and friends.
Other nations, like many of the African and Arab countries do not celebrate Valentine’s Day at all but they still have their own rituals of courtship and marriage. The Chinese do not celebrate Valentine’s Day because it falls too close to the Chinese New Year, a huge event throughout the country. However, the Chinese do celebrate the “Qixi Festival” on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Lunar New Year and during this celebration girls usually demonstrate their domestic skills and wish for a good husband.
Although not every country celebrates Valentine’s Day, there are long-standing traditions that help people convey their feelings to significant others. Love and marriage are occurrences that take place all over the world and nearly every single culture has some sort of tradition that is used to express affection to those who one holds dear. Valentine’s Day is largely how American tradition handles such affectionate expressions and that is why Valentine’s Day is often regarded as one of the sweetest holidays on the calendar.