In The Mood For Love: Wackiest Valentine’s Traditions From All Over The World

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When one thinks of Valentine’s Day, one generally associates the day with images of red roses, hearts, chocolates, and perhaps the story of Saint Valentine after whom the holiday has been named. But what if Valentine’s Day were also about reversal of gender roles, the first day of working in the fields, and spoons? Let’s look at some of the wackier ways in which the world celebrates the most loved day of the year (literally).

Day of the Love Birds (in the Fields): Slovenia

Image Courtesy: Adventurewomen 

In Slovenia, Valentine’s Day marks the first day in the fields. St. Valentine, or Zdravko as he is better known there, is one of their patron saints for spring. They believe that that is the day when plants and crops begin to grow in the fields. There’s also a widely held tradition that on Valentine’s Day the birds of the field propose to their loved ones and get married i.e. it’s the mating season for some birds. To witness this, one has to walk barefoot through the fields (and sometimes frozen ground). While the Slovenian Valentine’s Day might be overshadowed by fields and birds in love, they more than compensate for it by celebrating love on three different dates: February 22nd (Saint Vincent’s Day), March 12th (Saint Gregory’s Day) and June 13th (Saint Anthony’s Day). So if you’re still hungover on love after the 14th, or simply want to do things differently on the day of love, you know which country to head to for a second chance!

Spooning For Love: Wales

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Image courtesy: The Lovespoon Gallery

 

St. Dwynwen’s Day, celebrated in Wales on January 25th, is the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day. There’s a legend associated with it; Dwynwen, daughter of King Brychan Bycheinog of Anglesey, lived in the 5th century, and fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but unfortunately they could not be together. The Celtic legend has many variations regarding the reason for their separation, three hypotheses being that Maelon raped her despite Dwynwen’s wish to remain celibate until marriage; her father forbade the marriage; or that her father had already promised her to someone else. Dwynwen, distraught with her love for Maelon, prays to fall out of love with him. As legend goes, it is believed that she is visited by an angel who gives her a potion to cool her love for Maelon. However, the potion works too efficiently and turns Maelon into a block of ice. Dwynwen, troubled by this chilly problem in her life, prays and God (according to some versions, the angel) appears and grants her three wishes; she wishes for Maelon to be freed, for God to watch over all true lovers and to guide them through their love and sadness, and lastly, that she never marries.

While Dwynwen and Maelon’s love story ended with her retreating to the Church as a nun in the service of God, the Welsh on their Valentine’s Day celebrate it traditionally by gifting love-spoons to their significant others. This tradition started when Welsh men (possibly emerging first amongst sailors) would carve intricate designs on wooden spoons and gift them to the woman they were courting. The symbols on the spoons also signify several things: the keys would signify the man’s heart, the wheels his hard work, the beads his preferred number of offspring, etc. The tradition is still followed by some, and definitely lasts longer than your average red rose.

Egging the Love: Norway and Denmark

Gaekkebrev-540x405Image courtesy: travelblog

 

          Denmark and Norway have come up with their own quirky tradition for Valentine’s Day, which was not celebrated until recently. The locals embraced and made popular the practice of Gaekkebrev, which are basically funny little poems or rhyming love notes that are sent anonymously on Valentine’s Day, giving them only a clue as to the sender’s name, represented by a dot for each letter. The recipient must then guess who sent them the card. If they guess correctly, they win an Easter Egg on Easter Day later in the year, and if they aren’t able to guess, they owe their sender an Easter Egg which is then collected on Easter.

Leafing For Love: Great Britain

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Image courtesy: history.org

 

There was a tradition that came into being around 18th century in Great Britain, where on the eve of Valentine’s Day, single women would place or pin four bay leaves, one at each corner of their pillows, and one in the centre, with the belief that it would bring them dreams of their future husbands. Another variation of this tradition was to sprinkle rosewater on the leaves and lay them across their pillows, saying “Good Valentine, be kind to me / in dreams let me my true love see”. Although this tradition is not widely practiced anymore, it can still be traced once in a while.

Black Eyed Peas Kind of Day: South Korea

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Image courtesy: smithsonianmag.com

 

Adapted from the Japanese tradition of Valentine’s Day (that we covered previously), women in South Korea too, are the ones who gift chocolates on this day. Similarly, the men reciprocate and participate in gifting chocolate on ‘White Day’. However, their Valentine’s Day tradition doesn’t end there. They have taken it a step further and introduced what they call ‘Black Day’. On the 14th of April, a month after ‘White Day’, the single people who didn’t receive any lovin’ on Valentine’s Day or White Day, have started an informal tradition of meeting up at restaurants to eat ‘jajangmyeon’ (자장면 ), a dish made up of white Korean noodles with a black bean sauce, referred to as black noodles. Some say this tradition of eating black noodles with other single friends is a celebration of the single life, while others see it as is more of a consolation dinner or mourning of being single. Either way, the age old combination of food and celebration (or mourning, likewise) is maintained through this wacky tradition.

 

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Image courtesy: HuffPost

 

There are numerous ways one can decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day, whether its according to whatever wacky way the people around you do it, or just a normal day with someone special (or, in a lot of cases, with friends either lamenting or celebrating the lack of a Valentine’s date). And as far as having out-of-the-box traditions are concerned, one can always start one on their own. And if its crazy enough, it’ll catch on. So this Valentine’s Day, start your own creatively wacky tradition!

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