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Top 10 romantic traditions around the world

9 February 2021

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Whether you have a long-term partner or are in the midst of a whirlwind romance, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show that special someone just how much you love them. And yet, whilst Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries it’s not the only – or even the oldest – day devoted to romance. Here are 10 romantic traditions from across the world.


1. France

It would be remiss to talk about romantic traditions without at least mentioning France. Valentine’s Day has long played a role in the love lives of the French and it’s believed the first Valentine’s Day card originated here, when the Duke of Orleans sent a love poem to his wife from prison in 1415. And of course there’s the older matchmaking tradition of ‘une loterie d’amour’, now banned by the French government. This saw single women build large bonfires to burn images of men who had rejected them whilst shouting curses into the sky. Today a less dramatic – and more familiar - celebration of Valentine’s Day takes place where couples send one another gifts.


2. China

The Qixi Festival is an ancient festival dating back over 2000 years to the Han dynasty, but today it’s still celebrated by people who live outside of the major cities. The legend behind the festival centres on the Chinese folk tale ‘The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd’, which tells of a pair of star-crossed lovers who are kept apart but eventually allowed to reunite once a year - on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Traditional celebrations taking place throughout the festival include needlework competitions to show domestic skills, dressing in Hanfu – traditional Chinese dress – and preparing offerings of tea, wine and flowers to pray for a happy marriage.


3. Slovenia

According to the old Slovenian calendar, March 12 is the first day of spring and the day Slovenians celebrate love. There is even a popular Slovenian saying that Gregorjevo is the day ‘when birds get married’, and it’s believed the first bird a girl sees in the sky on this day can tell her what her future husband will be like. Amongst many romantic gestures, one of the longest-standing traditions is to gift heart-shaped honey cookies to loved ones – often featuring ‘love birds’ decorations. And on the eve of Gregorjevo, a special tradition takes place where miniature houses and boats with lighted candles are set afloat on the rivers.


4. Romania

The Romanian equivalent to Valentine’s Day is Dragobete, a holiday held on February 24 in honour of the Romanian god of love. On Dragobete, it’s custom for unmarried men to wear festive clothes and go into the forest to gather the first flowers of Spring for the woman they love. The women then run to the centre of their village to await the return of the men, where a game of chase ensues. If she allows herself to be caught, she receives both the flowers and a proposal of marriage. Tradition states that those who participate in this practice will be blessed with future health and happiness.


5. Spain

Saint Jordi’s day is a popular celebration held on April 23, in Barcelona and the Catalonia region. On this day, women buy books for the special men in their lives and receive a red rose in return. The origins of the day are rooted in the legend of St George; who slayed the dragon to save his princess. The practice of the gift giving however has two separate origins: the giving of red roses is believed to have started sometime in the middle ages, whilst the giving of books only began following the death of William Shakespeare, which coincided with April 23.


6. Wales

On January 25, Welsh people celebrate Saint Dwynwen’s Day in honour of the Welsh patron saint of love. Saint Dwynwen herself was unlucky in love so she instead prayed for others to find the happiness she never could. Similar to Valentine’s Day, St. Dwynwen’s Day is regarded as a day to celebrate romantic love and is a time when couples give each other cards and gifts. One of the oldest surviving traditions however dates back to the seventeenth century, and sees couples exchange intricately carved wooden spoons – also known as love spoons - as a token of their affection.


7. Brazil

Dia dos Namorados – or Lover’s Day – is considered the Brazilian Valentine’s Day although it actually takes place on June 12. To celebrate Dia dos Namorados, couples exchange greetings, gifts and enjoy a grand dinner together. The following day is Saint Anthony’s Day and traditionally this was when single women were expected to pray to the Brazilian patron saint of marriage. Some would also complete a ritual, drowning an image of the saint upside down in water in the hopes that her future husband would suddenly appear.


8. Israel

Tu B’Av is an ancient Hebrew celebration of love with roots in post-biblical times. Traditionally, Tu B’av is held on the 15th day of the summer month of the Jewish calendar and is considered a time for joy and matchmaking. The oldest customs saw unmarried women wear white and dance in the vineyards in the hope of catching the eye of a potential suitor. In its modern incarnation, Tu B’Av is celebrated as a Day of Love and is increasingly marked by festivals of singing and dancing.

South Korea

9. South Korea

The South Korean Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14, but with one stark difference: it’s only the women who give gifts. On Valentine’s Day, Korean women also buy chocolates for male friends and colleagues with the quality indicating whether the gift is a courtesy or a ‘chocolate of pure love.’ They then have to wait until March 14 for an answer because this is White Day. On White Day it’s payback time and men are expected to reciprocate with a gift worth three times the value of what they received in February.


10. Finland

In Finland, they have the ultimate test of strength and love with the annual Wife Carrying World Championships! The rule is simply not to drop your wife and for the competing couples there’s a lot at stake: make it to the end of the 278-yard obstacle course and the victorious pair will win the wife’s weight in beer! The sport is said to have originated in the nineteenth century, when the appropriately named Ronkainen the Robber and his band of thieves stole wives in the wilderness. The championships have become increasingly popular in recent years and have drawn in thousands of visitors from all over the world.