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Valentine's Day: celebrating love, part 2-A of 4, around the world

Candy is Japan's favorite Valentine's gift.
Candy is Japan's favorite Valentine's gift.
Photo from Grant Cochrane/

Valentine’s Day is an extremely popular holiday, not only in the United States, but also world-wide. It has widespread observances in Japan, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, and Germany.

Valentine’s Day observances in the U.S. have no set parameters for activity or expressions of love. Typically, feelings are represented via the exchanges of cards, candy, flowers, gifts, and romantic dinners.

Japan’s Valentine’s’ Day is the one most different to ours. They observe it from February 14th through March 14th. Their practices reflect their unique culture and customs, and are based on their view of “obligation.”

In Japan, on February 14th, the women definitely take the lead, giving gifts reflecting love and respect. Interestingly, the men do not reciprocate until March 14th. They have the advantage of a “built-in” opportunity to see what the women think of them before it is time for them to respond.

Chocolates are the most-favored gifts for Japan’s Valentine’s Day. Since around 1960 they call March 14th “White Day” for the white boxes in which they present the confections.

Their gifts of chocolates (and/or other things) are in a hierarchy signifying the receiver’s status. They give to their “loves” as well as other important people in their lives such as parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, in-laws, etc.

The women divide chocolate gifts into three categories. The ones for their true loves are “honmei.” Those for men friends (like bosses, colleagues, etc.) are “giri,” while those for girl friends are “tomo.”

Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, and Germany observe Valentine’s Day much like the United States. However, some have their own local flair.

The British show their pride of being the birth place of the world’s most famous romantic poems. Several weeks before February 14th, they honor their great poets who’ve written ageless words of love by publishing them in their newspapers and magazines. In addition, specific areas in England are known for their Valentine’s Day baked goods, especially a distinctive bun, loaded with caraway seeds, plums, and/or raisins.

Denmark’s younger people (mostly under 30) customarily give bouquets of white flowers, called snowdrops. Additionally, they exchange unsigned funny and/or romantic Valentine’s cards or notes. German men typically give flowers in the shapes of endearment tokens to their loved ones.

There are many more interesting celebrations of love in a variety of countries. The next installment features some of the best. Don’t miss it.

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