After yesterday’s post, I wondered “what countries celebrate Valentines Day?” So here we are today with an extension of sorts of yesterday’s post to look at all of the countries that celebrate this treasured holiday.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated in all East Asian countries with Singaporeans, Chinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine’s gifts.
In most Latin American countries, for example, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, Saint Valentine’s Day is known as Día de los Enamorados (“Day of Lovers”) or as Día del Amor y la Amistad (“Day of Love and Friendship”). It is also common to see people perform “acts of appreciation” for their friends.
In Guatemala it is known as Día del Cariño (“Affection Day”). Some countries, in particular the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, have a tradition called Amigo secreto (“Secret friend”), which is a game similar to the Christmas tradition of Secret Santa.
In Brazil, the Dia dos Namorados (“Lovers’ Day”, or “Boyfriends’/Girlfriends’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the “marriage saint,” when traditionally many single women perform popular rituals, called simpatias, in order to find a good husband or boyfriend. Couples exchange gifts, chocolates, cards, and flower bouquets. The February 14 Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all because it usually falls too little before or too little after the Brazilian Carnival.
The Carnival can fall anywhere from early February to early March and lasts almost a week. Because of the absence of Valentine’s Day and due to the celebrations of the Carnivals, Brazil was recommended by U.S. News & World Report as a tourist destination during February for Western singles who want to get away from the holiday.
Colombia celebrates Día del amor y la amistad on the third Saturday in September instead. Amigo Secreto is also popular there.
On the United States mainland, about 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, not including the hundreds of millions of cards school children exchange.
Valentine’s Day is a major source of economic activity, with total expenditures in 2017 topping $18.2 billion in 2017, or over $136 per person. This is an increase from $108 per person in 2010. In 2019, a survey by the National Retail Federation found that over the previous decade, the percentage of people who celebrate Valentine’s Day had declined steadily. From their survey results, they found three primary reasons: over-commercialization of the holiday, not having a significant other, and not being interested in celebrating it.
In pre-Taliban years Koch-e-Gul-Faroushi (Flower Street) in the down town Kabul used to be adorned with innovative flower arrangements to attract Valentine’s Day celebrating youth. In the Afghan tradition, love is often expressed through poetry. Some new generation budding poets like Ramin Mazhar, Mahtab Sahel are expressing themselves through poetry using Valentine’s Day expressing concerns on any likelihood of erosion of freedoms. In their political comment they defy fear by saying “I kiss you amid the Taliban.”
Valentine’s Day was first celebrated in Bangladesh by Shafik Rehman, a journalist and editor of Jaijaidin in 1993. He was acquainted with Western culture by studying in London. He highlighted Valentine’s Day to the Bangladeshi people through Jaijaidin newspaper. Rehman is called the “father of Valentine’s Day in Bangladesh”. On this day, people in various bonds including lovers, friends, husbands and wives, mothers and children, students and teachers express their love for each other with flowers, chocolates, cards and other gifts. On this day, various parks and recreation centers of the country are full of people of love. No public holiday is declared on this day in Bangladesh.
Some in Bangladesh feel that celebrating this day is not acceptable from a cultural and Islamic point of view. Before the celebration of Valentine’s Day, February 14 was celebrated as the anti-authoritarian day in Bangladesh. However, that day is disregarded by people to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
In Chinese, Valentine’s Day is called lovers’ festival (simplified Chinese: 情人节; traditional Chinese: 情人節; Mandarin: Qīng Rén Jié; Hokkien: Chêng Lîn Chiat; Cantonese: Chìhng Yàhn Jit; Shanghainese Xin Yin Jiq). The “Chinese Valentine’s Day” is the Qixi Festival (meaning “The Night of Sevens” (Chinese: 七夕; pinyin: Qi Xi)), celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. According to the legend, the Cowherd star and the Weaver Maid star are normally separated by the Milky Way (silvery river) but are allowed to meet by crossing it on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar. In recent years, celebrating White Day has also become fashionable among some young people.
In ancient India, there was a tradition of adoring Kamadeva, the lord of love — exemplified by the erotic carvings in the Khajuraho Group of Monuments and by the writing of the Kamasutra. This tradition was lost around the Middle Ages, when Kamadeva was no longer celebrated, and public displays of sexual affection became frowned upon. This repression of public affections began to loosen in the 1990’s.
Valentine’s Day celebrations did not catch on in India until around 1992. It was spread due to the programs in commercial TV channels, such as MTV, dedicated radio programs, and love letter competitions, in addition to an economical liberalization that allowed the explosion of the valentine card industry. The celebration has caused a sharp change on how people have been displaying their affection in public since the Middle Ages.
On a 2018 online survey, it was found that 68% of the respondents do not wish to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It can be also observed that different religious groups, including Hindu, Muslim and Christian people of India do not support Valentine’s Day.
In modern times, Hindu and Islamic traditionalists have considered the holiday to be cultural contamination from the West, a result of globalization in India. Shiv Sena and the Sangh Parivar have asked their followers to shun the holiday and the “public admission of love” because of them being “alien to Indian culture.” Although these protests are organized by political elites, the protesters themselves are middle-class Hindu men who fear that the globalization will destroy the traditions in their society: arranged marriages, Hindu joint families, full-time mothers, etc. Despite these obstacles, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular in India.
Valentine’s Day has been strongly criticized from a postcolonial perspective by intellectuals from the Indian left. The holiday is regarded as a front for “Western imperialism,” “neocolonialism” and “the exploitation of working classes through commercialism by multinational corporations.” It is claimed that as a result of Valentine’s Day, the working classes and rural poor become more disconnected socially, politically, and geographically from the hegemonic capitalist power structure. They also criticize mainstream media attacks on Indians opposed to Valentine’s Day as a form of demonization that is designed and derived to further the Valentine’s Day agenda. Right wing Hindu nationalists are also hostile. In February 2012, Subash Chouhan of the Bajrang Dal warned couples that “They cannot kiss or hug in public places. Our activists will beat them up.” He said “We are not against love, but we criticize vulgar exhibition of love at public places.”
The history of Valentine’s Day in Iran dates back to the Qajar era of the latter half of the 19th century—Naser al-Din Shah Qajar did not take his wife with him during his trip to Europe and he sent her a greeting card from distance on Valentine’s Day. This greeting card is available in Iranian museums.
Since the mid-2000’s, Valentine’s Day has become increasingly popular in Iran, especially among young people. However, it has also been the subject of heavy criticism from Iranian conservatives, who see it as part of the spread of “decadent” Western culture. Since 2011, authorities have attempted to discourage celebrations and impose restrictions on the sale and production of Valentine’s Day-related goods, although the holiday remains popular as of 2018. Additionally, there have been efforts to revive the ancient Persian festival of Sepandārmazgān, which takes place around the same time, to replace Valentine’s Day, although, as of 2016, this has also been largely unsuccessful.
In Israel, the Jewish tradition of Tu B’Av has been revived and transformed into the Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Av (usually in late August). In ancient times girls would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, where the boys would be waiting for them (Mishna Taanith end of Chapter 4). Today, Tu B’Av is celebrated as a second holiday of love by secular people (along with Valentine’s Day), and it shares many of the customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day in western societies. In modern Israeli culture Tu B’Av is a popular day to proclaim love, propose marriage, and give gifts like cards or flowers.
In Japan, Morozoff Ltd. introduced the holiday for the first time in 1936, when it ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners. Later, in 1953, it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter. In 1958, the Isetan department store ran a “Valentine sale.” Further campaigns during the 1960’s popularized the custom.
The custom that only women give chocolates to men may have originated from the translation error of a chocolate-company executive during the initial campaigns. In particular, office ladies give chocolate to their co-workers. Unlike western countries, gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers, or dinner dates are uncommon, and most of the gifts-related activity is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person. Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.
Many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except when the day falls on a Sunday, a holiday. This is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ), from ‘giri’ (“obligation”) and ‘choko’, (“chocolate”), with unpopular co-workers receiving only “ultra-obligatory” (超義理チョコ ‘chō-giri choko’) cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko (本命チョコ, lit. “true feeling chocolate”), chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko (友チョコ, from ‘tomo’ meaning “friend”).
In the 1980’s, the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a “reply day,” where men are expected to return the favor to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine’s Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered. A previous failed attempt to popularize this celebration had been done by a marshmallow manufacturer who wanted men to return marshmallows to women. In Japan, the romantic “date night” associated with Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Christmas Eve.
Saint Valentine is the patron saint for a large part of the Lebanese population. Couples take the opportunity of Valentine’s feast day to exchange sweet words and gifts as proof of love. Such gifts typically include boxes of chocolates, cupcakes, and red roses, which are considered the emblem of sacrifice and passion.
Lebanese people celebrate Valentine’s Day in a different way in every city. In Beirut, men take women out to dine and may buy them a gift. Many women are asked to marry on that day. In Sidon, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with the whole family – it is more about family love than a couple’s love.
Islamic officials in West Malaysia warned Muslims against celebrating Valentine’s Day, linking it with vice activities. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the celebration of romantic love was “not suitable” for Muslims. Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department, (Jakim) which oversees the country’s Islamic policies said that a fatwa (ruling) issued by the country’s top clerics in 2005 noted that the day “is associated with elements of Christianity,” and “we just cannot get involved with other religions worshiping rituals.”
Jakim officials planned to carry out a nationwide campaign called “Awas Jerat Valentine’s Day,” (“Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap”) aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day on February 14, 2011. Activities include conducting raids in hotels to stop young couples from having unlawful sex and distributing leaflets to Muslim university students warning them against the day.
On Valentine’s Day 2011, West Malaysian religious authorities arrested more than 100 Muslim couples concerning the celebration ban. Some of them would be charged in the Shariah Court for defying the department’s ban against the celebration of Valentine’s Day.
In East Malaysia, the celebration are much more tolerated among young Muslim couples although some Islamic officials and Muslim activists from the West side have told younger generations to refrain from such celebration by organizing da’wah and tried to spread their ban into the East. In both the states of Sabah and Sarawak, the celebration is usually common with flowers.
The concept of Valentine’s Day was introduced into Pakistan during the late 1990’s with special TV and radio programs. The Jamaat-e-Islami political party has called for the banning of Valentine’s Day celebration. Despite this, the celebration is becoming popular among urban youth and the florists expect to sell a great number of flowers, especially red roses. The case is the same with card publishers.
In 2016, the local governing body of Peshwar officially banned the celebration of Valentine’s Day in the city. The ban was also implemented in other cities such as Kohat by the local governments.
In 2017, the Islamabad High Court banned Valentine’s Day celebrations in public places in Pakistan. More than 80% of Dawn readers polled on its website agreed with this decision.
In 2018, because of a petition by a citizen, Abdul Waheed, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority advised broadcasters and newspapers against airing any Valentine’s Day celebrations.
In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is called Araw ng mga Puso in much the same manner as in the West. It is usually marked by a steep increase in the price of flowers, particularly red roses. It is the most popular day for weddings, with some localities offering mass ceremonies for no charge.
In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, because the day is considered a Christian holiday. This ban has created a black market for roses and wrapping paper. In 2012, the religious police arrested more than 140 Muslims for celebrating the holiday, and confiscated all red roses from flower shops. Muslims are not allowed to celebrate the holiday, and non-Muslims can celebrate only behind closed doors.
“Saudi cleric Sheikh Muhammad Al-‘Arifi said on Valentine’s Day Eve that celebrating this holiday constitutes bid’a – a forbidden innovation and deviation from religious law and custom – and mimicry of the West.”
However, in 2017 and 2018, after a fatwa was widely circulated, the religious police did not prevent Muslims from celebrating the day. In 2018, Sheikh Ahmed Qasim Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi cleric and former president of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said that Valentine’s Day is not haram and is compatible with Islamic values.
According to findings, Singaporeans are among the biggest spenders on Valentine’s Day, with 60% of Singaporeans indicating that they would spend between $100 and $500 during the season leading up to the holiday.
In South Korea, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on February or March 14 go to a Chinese-Korean restaurant to eat black noodles (짜장면 jajangmyeon) and lament their “single life.” Koreans also celebrate Pepero Day on November 11, when young couples give each other Pepero cookies. The date “11/11” is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. The 14th of every month marks a love-related day in Korea, although most of them are obscure. From January to December: Candle Day, Valentine’s Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day. Korean women give a much higher amount of chocolate than Japanese women.
In Taiwan, traditional Qixi Festival, Valentine’s Day and White Day are all celebrated. However, the situation is the reverse of Japan’s. Men give gifts to women on Valentine’s Day, and women return them on White Day.
In Finland, Valentine’s Day is called ystävänpäivä, which means “Friend’s Day.” As the name indicates, this day is more about remembering friends, not significant others. In Estonia, Valentine’s Day was originally called valentinipäev and later also sõbrapäev (‘Friend’s Day’) as a calque of the Finnish term.
In France, a traditionally Catholic country, Valentine’s Day is known simply as “Saint Valentin,” and is celebrated in much the same way as other western countries. The relics of Saint Valentin de Terni, the patron of the St Valentine’s Day, are in the Catholic church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Jean-l’Evangéliste located in the southern France town of Roquemaure, Gard. The celebrations of “Fête des Amoureux” takes place every two years on the Sunday closest to February 14. The village gets dressed in its 19th-century costume and put on the program with over 800 people.
St. Valentine’s Day, or Ημέρα του Αγίου Βαλεντίνου in Greek tradition was not associated with romantic love. In the Eastern Orthodox church there is another Saint who protects people who are in love, Hyacinth of Caesarea (feast day July 3), but this was not widely known until the late 1990’s In contemporary Greece, Valentine’s Day is generally celebrated as in the common Western tradition.
Many Christians make a pilgrimage to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin on Saint Valentine’s Day to implore the intercession of Saint Valentine in their prayers, with the hope of finding true love.
On Saint Valentine’s Day in Ireland, many individuals who seek true love make a Christian pilgrimage to the Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, which is said to house relics of Saint Valentine of Rome; they pray at the shrine in hope of finding romance. There lies a book in which foreigners and locals have written their prayer requests for love.
Saint Valentine’s Day was introduced to Poland together with the cult of Saint Valentine via Bavaria and Tyrol. However, it rose in popularity in the 1990’s. The only (and the biggest) public celebration in Poland is held annually from 2002 in Chełmno under the name “Walentynki Chełmińskie” (Chełmno Valentine’s). Because Chełmno’s parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been holding the relic of St. Valentine since the Middle Ages, local cult of the saint has been combined with the Anglo-Saxon tradition.
In Portugal, the holiday is known as “Dia dos Namorados” (Lover’s Day / Day of the Enamoured). As elsewhere, couples exchange gifts, but in some regions, women give a lenço de namorados (“lovers’ handkerchief”), which is usually embroidered with love motifs.
In recent years, Romania has also started celebrating Valentine’s Day. This has drawn backlash from several groups, institutions, and nationalist organizations like Noua Dreaptǎ, who condemn Valentine’s Day for being superficial, commercialize, and imported Western kitsch. In order to counter the perceived denaturation of national culture, Dragobete, a spring festival celebrated in parts of Southern Romania, has been rekindled after having been ignored during the Communist years as the traditional Romanian holiday for lovers. The holiday is named after a character from Romanian folklore who was supposed to be the son of Baba Dochia. Its date used to vary depending on the geographical area, however nowadays it is commonly observed on February 24.
In Denmark and Norway, February 14 is known as Valentinsdag, and is celebrated in much the same manner as in the United Kingdom. In Sweden it is called Alla hjärtans dag (“All Hearts’ Day”) but is not widely celebrated. A 2016 survey revealed that less than 50% of men and women were planning to buy presents for their partners. The holiday has only been observed since the 1960’s.
The holiday was first introduced in Spain through a 1948 advertisement campaign by the department store chain Galerías Preciados, and had become widespread by the 1970’s. Known as “San Valentín”, the holiday is celebrated the same way as in the rest of the West.
In the UK, just under half of the population spends money on their Valentines and around £1.3 billion is spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates, and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent.
In Wales, some people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St. Dwynwen’s Day) on January 25 instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of love. The Welsh name for Saint Valentine is Sant Ffolant.
In a 2016 poll conducted by Channel 4 for Valentine’s Day, Jane Austen’s line, “My heart is, and always will be, yours,” from her novel Sense and Sensibility as said by Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) to Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) in the acclaimed 1995 film adaptation, was voted the most romantic line from literature, film, and TV by thousands of women.