Singapore, 4 February, 2016 – Lovespoons, white chocolate and bonfires are just some of the origins of Valentine’s Day traditions around the world.
Wego.com, the leading travel search site in the Asia Pacific and Middle East explores some of the more unique backgrounds of traditions for the day that the world celebrates love.
“Valentine’s Day is steeped in history and tradition and has evolved in many countries to appear nothing like what our modern day notions of what the day is all about,” said Joachim Holte, Chief Marketing Officer, Wego.
“In South Korea it’s a popular celebration where the women are responsible for giving gifts from February 14 and continuing through to April,” explained Holte. “It’s not until March 14 that men return with gifts of their own to their partner. Should you not have a partner by April 14, South Korean singles sadly consume bowls of jajangmyeon (black bean paste noodles).”
Similarly, Japanese women give men gifts of chocolates, sometimes handmade, and the men respond with white chocolate on March 14 (called ‘White Day’), as a result of a popular marketing campaign by Japan’s national confectionery association in the 1980s, which has since become an annual tradition.
“It’s all about chocolate in Japan,” said Holte. “The shops overflow with some incredibly creative displays and in true Japanese tradition, each chocolate represents different meanings.”
‘Giri-choko’ which literally means ‘the obligation chocolate’ is shared with classmates or co-workers; ‘tomo-choko’, ‘the friend’s chocolate’, which is given with a bit more sincerity to closer friends, and ‘hommei-choko’, is for your beloved.
In the Philippines, weddings are better when celebrated en masse on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s become an annual tradition that the government, church or a charitable group, sponsor a group wedding in the Philippines on Valentine’s Day, and not just because the country is more romantic than others,” said Holte. “Mass rites are particularly helpful to low-income families, yet the yearly celebration now sees up to 4,000 couples join their lives together on February 14.”
China has their own Valentine’s Day, traditionally falling on the seventh day of the seventh month each year, which in 2016 is August 19. However they still participate in western traditions by exchanging gifts.
“There are some interesting reasons behind what not to give in China on Valentine’s Day,” Holte continued. “Don’t give your partner an umbrella, as the sound of the Chinese symbol for ‘umbrella’ and ‘breaking up’ is very similar. Not advisable either to give shoes as a gift as it implies you are sending your love away.”
Similarly to China, in Malaysia, they celebrate Valentine’s Day on the seventh day of the seventh month, and single women have been known to write their phone numbers on an orange, then cast them into a river hoping their love, and destiny, will find them.
In India, Valentine’s Day is a more recent phenomenon, although in West Bengal the festival of Saraswati, which is more closely aligned with learning, is seen as a modern day version of Valentine’s Day by the young.
“While rarely acknowledged as a public holiday, a traditional celebration of love and romance is adapted through a variety of translations around the world, even if not always on February 14,” Holte said. “Celebrations can be traced back to Roman times and were not originally linked to romance, but instead connects the Saint to the beginning of spring.”
“In fact the UK has a wide variety of regional traditions honouring St Valentine. One of the oldest traditions, dating back to the 17th century, is the presenting of an intricately carved Lovespoon in Wales, decorated with symbols of love to show their intended their amazing skills.”
“Revenge was the order of the day in France where jilted women would gather to burn images and hurl abuse in huge bonfires. The aggressive ritual became a little too much for the French government who eventually banned the tradition.”
Today’s singles can take heart, as opportunities now abound on Valentine’s Day to find a perfect match.
“If you’re single, this can be one of the best times to take a trip,” said Holte. “Travel can be one of the most romantic experiences you can undertake and many cities around the world now hold extravagant events for those who are single on Valentine’s Day.”
London, New York and Sydney in particular are hotspots for exclusive single parties attended by hundreds.
“You never know who you might be seated next to on the plane, bump into at the baggage carousel, or ask for directions,” said Holte in conclusion “Travel and romance go hand in hand.”
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