Happy Valentine’s Day!

This day honors one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, and today it is celebrated in over 100 countries around the world. Take a look at what some of our contributors have to say about it!

Valentine’s Day in the USA (By Jason, our contributor from the US)

As I child I remember getting a packet of Valentine’s cards and hand writing the names of every child in my class on the back of factory-made cards and putting each one inside an envelope addressed to each kid in my class.  I carried these to school in a brown paper bag then I put one on each classmate’s desk.  At the end of the day, I collected the exact same number of cards from my classmates and carried them home in the same brown paper bag.  I enjoyed reading each one.

As a young adult I don’t remember much about the holiday, other than many of my male friends spent a lot of effort giving long-stemmed rose bouquets and heart-shaped, red-laced boxes of chocolate to women they liked.  Much effort was also spent in securing reservations at a nice restaurant on the evening of February 14th.

As a working adult in the US retail industry, I often sit in strategy meetings where we talk about “maximizing the potential” of this big gift-giving holiday.  The discussions range from offering free shipping on heart-themed pajamas to offering special pricing on a dozen roses to guaranteeing next-day delivery of boxes of chocolate.

For this year’s Valentine’s Day, my wife and I won’t be doing anything special.  We will celebrate it by having breakfast together the next day, because that’s when it works best with our busy schedules.

“Día de San Valentín” in Costa Rica (By Nuria, our contributor from Costa Rica)

The celebration of Valentine’s Day in Costa Rica can be reflected in the red decoration of many businesses, heart balloons, flowers, chocolates, cards, love messages and others. February 14th has become the perfect excuse for people to show their love and affection towards one another, especially for couples. However, what about single people? Well, they can also celebrate this day since friendship is also part of this festivity. The name used to be Día de los enamorados (“Day of people in love”), but it is now Día del amor y la amistad (“Day of love and friendship”).

On this day, couples usually exchange gifts and have a romantic date such as dinner in a restaurant. But it may also be a great excuse for groups of friends to party and celebrate their friendship; maybe not the same day though since going out the night of February 14th is a synonym of crowded places full of couples. Some people like to celebrate Valentine’s Day while others don’t. It is definitely the perfect occasion for commercial businesses to sell lots of products, and many “ticos” believe love should be demonstrated every day, not only once a year.

Store offering lots of gifts and cards

 

Sign in a bar: "Celebrate love and friendship with discounts the whole month. This Tuesday, February 14th, celebrate a romantic night with us. Live music. Participate in a trip to Isla Tortuga for two people."

 

Decoration in a store's window.

 Valentine’s Day – Saint-Valentin, the celebration of Love, is huge in France (By DeeBee, our contributor from France)

Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends give each other presents, and in general the woman receives a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped present when possible and of course a card with a declaration of love. The man receives a customized present and a card from his girlfriend or wife.

If they can afford it, people celebrate Valentine’s Day by dining out and drinking champagne. If not, they might not go into huge expenses for food and drinks, but will have a romantic candlelit dinner at home with soft music in the background. Valentine’s Day is often the opportunity for a man to ask his girlfriend to marry him.

But in recent years the symbolism of this celebration has been hijacked and we are encouraged to give presents such as chocolates, flowers, perfume, jewellery…to family and friends! We even see advertisements that encourage children to buy gifts for their mothers! Fortunately this does not work very well as most French people prefer to keep the tradition intact.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!

Dragobete and Valentine’s Day in Romania (By Carmen, our contributor from Romania)

In Romania, Dragobete (a traditional Romanian holiday) is known as a day for lovers, rather like Valentine’s Day (only celebrated in Romania after the Revolution in 1989).

On Dragobete Day, celebrated on the 24th of February and considered in some parts of Romania the first day of spring, boys and girls in many villages usually go to the forest and pick up the first vernal flowers, for the person they love.

Nowadays, in cities, both Dragobete and Valentine‘s Day are celebrated in a more commercial way: fairs, exhibitions, concerts, club parties, one-day-weddings and other types of events are organized on these occasions, a reason of great satisfaction for merchants !

But there are anti-Valentine concerts too, you know!

Saint Valentine’s Day in Spain (By Marta, our contributor from Spain)

In Spain, Saint Valentine’s Day is not a traditional holiday. Many shops decorate their place for this special day to try and sell more flowers, chocolates, or any other presents, but, truth is, it is not a very popular celebration in Spain.

In Barcelona, and Catalonia, the day for lovers is April 23, Saint George’s Day, or Book Day. On this day, we go crazy and buy books and roses like it was the end of the world and give them to our lover and also to family and friends.

V-Day in Canada (By Kelly, our contributor from Canada)

Valentines Day in Canada is often said to be little more than a Hallmark holiday (Hallmark is a major greeting card company). Kids give valentine cards to all their classmates. They can be handmade, but are usually mini cards covered with the latest cartoon characters and corny sayings: Batman in a heart saying, “I’m batty for you”. Adults focus on their significant other. Chocolates, cards, flowers, even jewellery can be common. Couples often do romantic dinners out with restaurants offering special set menus, or its a good night to celebrate your love with a candlelight dinner at home. I have a couple friends for whom February 14th is their wedding anniversary.

For those not in a relationship, the holiday is often viewed negatively. There may be pressure to find a date, attend a singles event, or some simply wallow in self-pity and loneliness. Having a Girls’ Night, an evening of horror movies, or any event featuring black, death, or heartache is one way that singles bring some fun into the evening while trying to create an ironic twist. It is not hard to do so among the sea of red, pink, and hearts that fill stores and schools and venues.

Candlelight dinner in Canada

Read more

A Portuguese lovers’ tradition
Australian wedding cake

Festivals from around the world

About the author

Nuria Villalobos
My name is Nuria Villalobos and I'm Costa Rican. I am a current professor of English as a Foreign Language at Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica, and a former ISEP (International Student Exchange Program) student in the United States. I speak Portuguese and I am currently studying the Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language. I'm passionate about languages, cultures, photography and meeting people from different places.
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6 Comments

  • I enjoyed reading this. Valentine’s day in Turkey seems to be a big party. We tried to go to a restaurant once and it was full – but not with couples, instead with big groups and a live band. But that’s the only time we’ve gone out on Valentine’s day so I don’t know if it’s normal or not (any Turks can confirm?)

  • This is a great collective post!
    I am amazed that Spaniards celebrate on St-Georges’ Day as they are as much is not more roman catholic than us French.
    But I think we basically all say the same: we like celebrating Love!
    Great photos!
    Happy Valentine’s Day to All wherever you are around the planet! DeeBee

  • I see the marketing and commercialization stretches around the world.

    Jason: I had those same brown paper bag ‘mail boxes’ for my cards too. You always got one from every body in the class, but I would still sort through to see if that ‘special boy’ had given me something with the word love in it. Those were the days!

  • Nuria

    Awwhh, so sweet, Kelly! jiji ;)
    Great post!!

  • Jason

    @kelly – Yes, I remember choosing the most “meaningful” amongst the standardized card options and reserving it for the girl in class I liked best.

  • I didn’t know about Dragobete Day in Romania and Saint George’s Day in Barcelona. How interesting! I enjoy the idea of going to the forest and pick up some vernal flowers or receiving a book and a bouquet of roses. I will talk to my husband about that ;-) I think he will enjoy it too. Why not to introduce nice and beautiful traditions from other countries in our marriage? A Portuguese couple living in the Netherlands celebrating love in the Romanian and Barcelona ways sounds romantic!
    I love to read collective posts. We learn always so much!