Valentine's Day is surrounded by marketing hype, in the Western World and beyond. Here, we take a look at how the day is celebrated around the globe.
How exactly did an ancient festival explode into a modern-day, money-making holiday celebrated across the globe? With many referring to Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark Holiday (one invented almost entirely by card companies and capitalists to transform affection into a highly lucrative industry), we take a look at how this day is observed around the world today.
Valentine’s Day, or Valentinstag, spread to Germany after WWII, but isn’t as widely celebrated as in other Western countries. Valentine’s Day gifts in Germany include contemporary romantic symbols like flowers, jewellery and chocolates, but more traditional gifts include Lebkuchen, or a German gingerbread, often cut into heart shapes and with romantic messages frosted on. A symbolic “good luck” pig, often holding flowers or four-leaf clovers, may also be part of Valentine’s Day cards or decor.
As if the French language and beautiful landscapes weren’t enough, the February 14th celebration in France sets a high bar pretty high. The holiday is reserved strictly for romantic partners, and it is not usual for school children or friends to exchange Valentines with one another. As for gifts, you might find flower arrangements and chocolates being exchanged, and couples enjoying a romantic meal together.
The United States celebrates the day of love through giving chocolates, flowers and funny gifts to friends, family, and romantic partners. Though fewer Americans report celebrating Valentine’s Day, the nation spends an impressive amount on the holiday—in 2019, American consumers spent an estimated $20.7 billion on celebrating with gifts and romantic dates.
Valentine’s is celebrated quite enthusiastically in South Africa, with romantic dates and extravagant gift baskets. South Africans may follow the ancient Lupercalia tradition where women pin the name of who they are romantically interested in on their sleeve, often in the shape of a heart. Restaurants, bars and clubs are fully booked for Valentine’s Day, and locals and tourists alike attend Valentine’s Day balls.
In Nigeria, Valentine’s Day is a lively celebration filled with food, music, and spending quality time with loved ones. This extends beyond romantic partners, as friends and family enjoy cooking special food, making crafts, and decorating their homes. About 83 per cent of Nigerians celebrate Valentine’s Day, and surveys estimate that Nigerians spend about N11,500 (approximately £64,000,000) on gifts annually.
In Japan, women give romantic partners and male friends chocolates for Valentine’s Day. There are even different kinds of chocolates - giri choco and honmei choco - which represent friendship and love, respectively. On March 14th, women are the ones who receive gifts from men in return for their chocolates on a holiday known as White Day. These gifts are expected to cost at least three times the gift that they received one month earlier.
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