A Global Look at Valentine’s Day: Traditions from Around the World

In the United States, Valentine’s Day is all about chocolates and roses, or jewelry if you’re a big spender, but in other countries the holiday looks a little different. We took a miniature world tour exploring international traditions. And since variety is the spice of life, you may just find that injecting a little international flavor into your Valentine’s Day celebration is just what you need to heat things up.

South Africa: Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve

We all know the idiom, “to wear your heart on your sleeve,” meaning to be vulnerable about your emotions, but in South Africa on Valentine’s Day, women take this phrase literally. Drawing on the old Roman festival Lupercalia, young women, and sometimes men, pin hearts to their sleeves with the names of their lovers and crushes. 

Bulgaria: A Toast To Love

Many couples share a glass of wine over a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, but in Bulgaria the tradition goes a little deeper than that. There, February 14 is also known as Winemaker’s Day or Trifon Zarezan and couples toast their love with glasses of local wine. With the US-wine industry booming, why not celebrate this Valentine’s Day with a trip to your local vineyard or by uncorking a special bottle.

Czechia: A Kiss For Luck

While Valentine’s Day festivals are popular around the world, not all of them fall on February 14, on what we consider Valentine’s Day in the US. In Czechia, for example, Lover’s Day is celebrated on May 1, and couple’s celebrate by finding a blooming cherry tree to share a kiss under. Particularly in Prague, many couples gather at a statue of Karel Hynek Mácha, a romantic poet who wrote a poem entitled “May.” That lucky kiss is a good reminder of how important physical displays of affection are for your relationship’s health.

Italy: The Power Of Repetition

Nostalgia is a powerful force for romance – those little reminders of the journey your relationship has taken you on. In Italy, though, couples take the art of repetition a bit more seriously, with one of the most popular gifts being boxes of Baci Perugina, which are chocolate covered hazelnuts. Baci are the candy of choice because the word means “kisses” in Italian, and while you can get them in the US – you might even recognize the distinctive blue wrapper – another treat may be more suitable for recalling the early days of your relationship.

Your House: Making Valentine’s Day Special

Like any great celebration, Valentine’s Day is what you make of it, and any holiday is more meaningful when you make it personal. So whether you draw inspiration from celebrations around the world or tap into your personal lore to make the day extra special, don’t let popular expectations stress you out. Valentine’s Day looks different for every couple, so embrace what makes you unique.