Valentine’s Day: It’s Not Chocolates and Roses Everywhere

The fact that Valentine’s Day is readily morphing into an entire season (this year, Oreo cookies came out with a Valentine’s flavor — Red Velvet — simply encouraging the special day to be looked upon as something more month-long) proves that it’s a celebratory occasion not to be taken lightly, not from America to Asia. And while February 14th is the prime time to gift your loved one, cherished friend, you name it, boatloads of truffles and bouquets of pink and red flowers, we’re all about spicing things up a little. In other words, this year, why not treat your Valentine to a guided tour of any sort in any place? The different, more unique treats (read: the guided tours around the world) are the ones that make anybody’s heart melt the most.

Gifts aside, and curious to know more about how the lovey dovey day is celebrated elsewhere, we researched what goes down on that fourteenth day of February worldwide. Read on, the results may astound (and inspire) you.


These days, text messaging and emailing are increasingly the preferred medium for expressing one’s love, but this isn’t how the Australians originally celebrated the special day. During the Australian gold rush period, miners who had recently become extremely rich ordered extravagant valentines gifts, gifts often amounting to thousands of pounds at a time. Tour guides in Australia may be astounded when they hear of this now, but some of the most lavish valentines consisted of satin cushions that were perfumed and ornately decorated with flowers, colored shells, and, wait for it, taxidermied humming birds or birds of paradise. To top it all off, these treasures were intended to be kept in another elaborately decorated and delicate box.


Size doesn’t usually matter in Europe (and boy do local architecture guides know all about this…), but for the Italians on Valentine’s Day, bigger most definitely means better; the more you love someone, the more gigantic the piece of chocolate you gift them.


It goes without a doubt that England boasts some of the best tour guides, but they also have some of the oddest Valentines traditions. Historically, unmarried girls would wake before sunrise on the 14th, stand by their windows, and whichever man they first saw they would marry within the year, or at least his lookalike. Another tradition entails ladies pinning four bay leaves to the corners of their pillow to help them dream of their future husbands. Unmarried women in England also used to write their lovers’ names on pieces of paper they’d then attach to clay balls and drop into the water. As legend went, the name that surfaced first would be the woman’s future husband.


Tour guides in Japan will share with you the country’s wonderful assortment of holiday traditions, and Valentine’s Day has its very own quirk; instead of males and females exchanging gifts on the same day, women gift men chocolates on February 14th, and men return the favor a month later on “White Day.” As you can gather from the name, White Day involves white chocolate, but the celebratory day is rumored to initiate from a marshmallow company’s marketing ploy in the 1960s. Now, more than half the chocolate sold in an entire year in Japan is sold around Valentine’s Day.


Heritage-history tour guides in France will gladly give you the lowdown on the country’s relationship with Valentine’s Day, one that is really quite intimate; after all, Valentine’s Day cards are said to have originated from there. The backstory: Charles, Duke of Orleans, wrote a love poem (or “Valentine”) to his wife while he was improsined in the Tower of London during the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. It is also said that Valentine’s Day came about in that part of the world because, during the Middle Ages, it was popularly believed that birds began to mate halfway through the second month of the year. In turn, lovers saw the middle of February special, and considered it auspicious to exchange love letters and tokens of love on Valentine’s Day.


Local tour guides in Denmark (people who are living wikipedias of knowledge ranging from historic facts to anecdotes) will share with you the country’s cultural curiosities, some of which includes what goes down on the 14th of February. While the majority of Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the conventional way, the Danes have some unique traditions. First, they have something called “lover’s cards,” or transparent cards that, when kept in front of light, reflect the image of a lover presenting his beloved a special gift. Second, instead of red roses, it’s tradition to gift white flowers  called “snowdrops.” Finally, there’s the tradition of “gaekkebrev,” which entails the sender writing a funny rhyme to his beloved, and signing not with a name, but with dots, each dot representing a letter in his name. The receiver is supposed to guess the sender’s name, and if she guesses correctly, she is rewarded with an Easter egg at Eastertide.

South Africa

Skilled adventure, lifestyle, nature, and sightseeing guides in South Africa will show you some stunning spots anywhere from Cape Town to Durban and Pretoria, but besides awesome scenery, the country boasts a unique Valentine’s Day custom: young girls follow an age-old tradition of pinning their lover’s name onto their sleeves.


By traveling around South Korea with an experienced tour guide, you’re certain to learn incredible information about the Korean culture, but one fact of note is what happens on April 14th. That’s right, April, not February, 14th. While Valentine’s Day in Korea is celebrated in more or less the “normal” way with chocolates and flowers, it’s “Black Day” on April 14th that’s particularly intreating. On this day, single people get together to console one another and eat black noodles (or noodles topped with a black bean sauce).


Valentine’s Day is more of a celebration of friendship than romance in Finland; the day, “Ystavan Paiva” translates to “Friend’s Day,” and it entails exchanging gifts and cards with the greeting, “Happy Friends Day!” That said, and cheesy as it may seem, February 14th is also a popular day to tie the knot or get engaged.


Travel with your Chinese tour guide to Shanghai’s People’s Square on February 13th, and you will find pieces of paper scattered throughout the trees. Read these pieces of paper, and you will learn that each one depicts the age, income, occupation, and desired traits in a romantic partner of eligible single men and women. This event is set up by dating companies and parents who wish to find their children companions before the onset of the Chinese New Year Lunar holiday.


On February 14th, Kurds in Iraq often decorate apples with cloves to offer them to their partners. By preserving red apples with cloves, they are symbolizing Adam and Eve’s relation, love and prosperity.

Enjoy learning about traditions elsewhere? Check out our blog post on Wacky Christmas Traditions Around the World!

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