Saturday 14 February 2015

International Love

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

For many, today holds plans of romantic dates with lovers, gift exchanges of chocolates and roses, or perhaps a night out on the town with friends.  Regardless of how you spend your Valentine's Day, one thing is for sure, today is a big day for love in North America.  Can the same be said for other countries around the world?  Find out by reading the list below, which describes the unique ways some other countries celebrate this special day!


Rumor has it that this love-filled holiday originated in France!  One of the reasons why, is due to a Frenchman, the Duke of Orléans, who is credited to having written the first Valentine's Day cards.  In 1415, the Duke was captured and taken prisoner to London.  While imprisoned, it is believed he wrote love letters to his wife in France.  Those letters are believed to have started the tradition of cartes d'amitiés, otherwise known as, French Valentine's Day cards.
Today, the French celebrate Valentine's Day with the writing and offering of such cards as well as with things such as, the exchange of gifts of chocolates and flowers or plans of a romantic dinner.


In Italy, Valentine's Day is known as, "La Festa Degli Innamorati" and is celebrated only between lovers and sweethearts; children do not exchange Valentine's Day cards as they do in North America.  Italians present each other with flowers and chocolates and plan romantic outings much like we do here.  However, Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, celebrates a little differently with a four-day-festival of events named, "Verona in Love."  The city is decorated, free concerts are held in the city square and restaurants offer speciality menus.
Although the holiday is actually an imported celebration from North America, the original St. Valentine's Day dates back to the Roman Empire.  During that time, February 14th was a holiday to celebrate the Roman goddess of women and marriage and Queen of the gods, Juno.


In Japan, Valentine's Day is celebrated in a completely opposite fashion - it is the women who give the gifts to the men!
The tradition is typically to give chocolates to men.  Women can choose between two types:  "Giri-choco," meant for close friends and colleagues, or "Honmei-choco," meant for boyfriends, lovers or husbands.  The most unique thing is that there is a follow-up to Valentine's Day in Japan called, "White Day," which takes place exactly one month after, on March 14th.  On this day, men are expected to give gifts to those who gifted them chocolates on Valentine's Day.


In South Africa, Valentine's Day is a week-long event!  Homes, stores and restaurants decorate well in advance of the big day.  On the 14th, individuals celebrate by pinning the name of their sweetheart on their sleeve.  This tradition is called, "Lupercalia," in honour of an ancient Roman fertility festival.  It is said that for some South African men, the tradition serves as a means of learning who their secret admirers are!


In the Philippines, they believe in "sharing" the love.  One particularly popular Valentine's Day tradition is to get married on the 14th in a mass wedding celebration.  Hundreds of couples gather together in large, public spaces across the country to either get married or renew their vows in a public ceremony.


Although lovers in England celebrate with cards, candies and flowers like most other places in the world, in the UK, Valentine's Day is also greatly celebrated by kids!  On February 14th, Children sing their favourite love songs and are rewarded with gifts such as candies and toys.
Some girls may also participate in the old tradition of looking for their future mate first thing in the morning!  Girls who are interested, wake up early in the morning on February 14th and look out their window.  Tradition says that the first man they see on the morning of St. Valentine's Day is the man they are meant to be with.


Due to Brazil's Carnival usually being celebrated on or near February 14th, Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on June 12th.  On this day, they also honour Saint Anthony, the patron saint of matchmaking and marriage.  
While a number of rituals are held for the celebration, single women can participate in one which helps determine their future spouse.  On the eve of Dia dos Namorados, single women are to write down the names of men on slips of paper and fold them up.  Then, on June 12th, they are to choose one and open it up to reveal the name of their future husband!

From this handful of varied examples, clearly there is no right or wrong way to celebrate this holiday. Whatever way you choose to spend your Valentine's Day, hope it is a good one!  

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