Valentine’s Day in the United States is a pretty standard affair—chocolates, roses, candle–lit dinners with wine, you get it. However, around the world, many countries have different Valentine’s Day traditions and customs, and even different days for different genders and single people. With such a diverse student body at Penn, it’s only appropriate that we recognize some of the different ways love (or lack of it) is expressed around the world.
Japan and Korea
In Japan and Korea, White Day is celebrated one month after Valentine’s Day (March 14). Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day for women to show their love and appreciation for a special man in their lives, and White Day is considered a day for men to return the favor. In addition to that is the concept of “honmei” and “giri” chocolate. In Japan, giri chocolates are for one’s friends, coworkers and family members, while honmei chocolates are more romantic and usually given to someone you love. Rei Fujita (W ‘19) from Japan told Street: “The fact that there are two holidays is better from the guy's perspective because it seems more reciprocal than the American tradition.”
In China, Qixi, while not really Valentine’s Day, is sometimes considered a close equivalent. It falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar moon, so the date varies from year to year but usually falls sometime in August. While White Day is more of a modern cultural phenomenon, Qixi is based on the myth of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl who fell in love. The legend says that the two lovers were separated by the Milky Way and can only see each other once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar moon. Crystal Xie (C ‘19) says "Valentine's day is more popular with people my age, but I think that the legend behind Qixi is very special.”
Leaving Asia, Brazilians also have a separate day for lovers. They celebrate “Dia dos Namorados,” or “Lovers' Day," on June 14. The customs for this day are very similar to Valentine’s Day and falls right before St. Anthony’s Day. Dia Dos Namorados is celebrated on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day because Saint Anthony is said to bless couples with romance, happiness and strong marriages.
Denmark and Wales
In Europe, Valentine’s Day is similar to the American tradition but with a few cultural nuances. In Denmark, it is common for men to write women funny poems, or gaekkebrev, on papers that have small holes cut in them, while in Wales, a traditional gift for Valentine’s Day is the love spoon.
Korea: Singles Edition
On the other hand, two months after Valentine’s Day and one month after White Day, single Koreans can celebrate “Black Day.” For anyone who did not receive gifts on Valentine’s Day or on White Day, this is the day to get together, wear all black and eat jajangmyeon, a noodle dish covered in a black soybean paste.
Whether you're single or in a relationship this Valentine’s Day, there’s always a tradition for you to follow. Each society may have different ways of celebrating—but at the end of the day, it’s all one love.