Valentine’s Day is not exactly the most normal holiday if you think about it. A baby named Cupid wearing a diaper and shooting arrows at people is supposed to put us in the mood for romance, all because of a long-forgotten tie-in to a martyred saint? If you think that’s odd, wait until you read about these weird romantic traditions from around the world.
St. Dwynwen’s Day, Wales
Your girlfriend trembles with excitement as she carefully unwraps a small box. “Oh. You got me a … spoon?” Good luck trying to import this Welsh tradition to the United States—even if the spoon is intricately carved. (Hint: Steer clear of kitchen utensils as romantic gifts for women.) If you’ve got a Welsh partner, however, you’re in luck, as love spoons—utensils carefully carved with symbols holding great meaning—are a traditional gift for St. Dwynwen’s Day, celebrated January 25.
Obligations Chocolates, Japan
Give candy to people to let them know that you don’t love them. It’s really quite kind, if you think about it—they’ll get the message and be able to eat their feelings. Japan has it figured out, with a blatantly commercial version of Valentine’s Day, proudly started by a (genius) chocolate company. Though the tradition has started to see a decline in recent years, the usual practice goes like this: Women must give the men in their lives (including bosses, coworkers, friends, family members, etc.) chocolates. The chocolates come in two categories: “obligation chocolates” (for the men the women aren’t particularly interested in) and “prospective-winner chocolate.”
White Day, Japan
Feeling sorry for the women who did all the chocolate-themed giving in Japan on Valentine’s Day? Don’t worry. They reap a return on investment exactly one month later, on White Day (March 14). On this holiday, men give reciprocal gifts worth two to three times the value of the Valentine’s Day chocolates they received. Brilliantly, this campaign was started by the National Confectionery Industry Association when it was looking to offload marshmallows and white chocolate. (Although non-edible gifts such as jewelry and lingerie are now popular White Day presents as well.)
Dia dos Namorados, Brazil
Valentine’s Day is ignored in Brazil because it usually happens during the epic party season of Carnival. Instead, love is celebrated on June 12, during the Dia dos Namorados. Instead of St. Valentine, St. Anthony (the patron saint of marriage) is honored. Single women undertake a variety of rituals called simpatias designed to land them a match, such as writing down the names of prospective suitors on paper the night before Dia dos Namorados and then drawing one out of the pile at random on the holiday to decide which one to go for.
Une Loterie d’Amour, France
Honestly, we’re shocked that no one has revived this now-forbidden holiday as a reality show—it would make fantastic television. Officially banned by the French government for being too out of control, Une Loterie d’Amour used to be a “lottery for love.” Single men and women would enter houses that faced opposite each other and call the names of their chosen partners out of the windows until they paired off. If a man changed his mind about his match, he would abandon the house and leave the woman there to be matched with someone else. The poor women who got rejected or didn’t get a match at all would host a big bonfire at the end of the day, where they would toss in photos of scorned loves and curse men.
Diary Day, South Korea
“Here honey, I got you this diary as a present. It’s got our anniversary, my birthday, and all our special dates are conveniently written in it so you don’t forget again.” On January 14, a holiday known as Diary Day in South Korea, couples exchange planners in which they mark down their important dates for the year. Ah, passive-aggressive romance.
Jack Valentine, Norfolk, England
The British sense of humor is world-famous for being a little … dark. Not even Valentine’s Day is safe—at least, not in Norfolk, where Valentine’s Day is a much bigger deal than in the rest of the country. It’s traditionally celebrated by a mysterious figure (Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine) who knocks at the door and scampers away, leaving behind gifts. Unfortunately, the holiday became an opportunity for pranksters. Cruel jokers would leave a giant wrapped present outside of the house of a single person … who would excitedly unwrap the gift only to find a mean note. Ouch.
Black Day, South Korea
We’ll end this list on a day for singles’ appreciation. On April 14, after watching happy couples exchange gifts on both Valentine’s Day and White Day, the unattached people of South Korea get together in solidarity. They dress in all black and eat jjajang myeon. This dish consists of noodles covered in black bean paste; it’s comfort food that often leaves teeth tinted a dark color.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated with the latest information.
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