Valentine's Day Traditions Around the World

13 February, 2018

Americans celebrate Valentine's Day each year on February 14. Images of hearts are everywhere, as are red roses and boxes of chocolates to give to that special person. You could say that "love is in the air."

Many other countries celebrate Valentine's Day, too, each in their own way. Here is a look at four countries' Valentine's Day traditions.


For Japanese people, Valentine's Day is all about chocolate! On February 14, women in Japan give out two kinds of chocolate. One is called Giri-choco. The other is Honmei-choco.

A woman buys Valentine's Day chocolates at a store in Tokyo Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
A woman buys Valentine's Day chocolates at a store in Tokyo Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Giri-choco is not very costly. Women give these chocolates to friends and male coworkers. And in schools, female students prepare bags of Giri-choco on February 14 to pass out to friends.

Women make homemade Honmei-choco to give to someone special. They may offer Honmei as a way to express their love to that person.

One month after Valentine's Day, Japan celebrates White Day on March 14. Men who received chocolates on February 14 return the favor with white-colored treats for women. Japan celebrated the first White Day in 1978. Candy manufacturers pushed the creation of the holiday as a way to sell more of their sweets.

Several other Asian countries also celebrate White Day, including Vietnam and South Korea.


Valentine's Day is a new holiday in Denmark. Young people in the country began celebrating it in the early 1990s.

While Americans give red roses, young Danes celebrate Valentine's Day with white flowers called "snowdrops." They give the flowers to both friends and lovers.

One of the biggest Danish Valentine's Day traditions is the exchange of a lover's card. In the past, these cards showed a photograph of the card-giver offering a gift to their lover. Today, though, any kind of card exchanged on Valentine's Day is called a lover's card.

Also on February 14, Danish men often give women something called a "gaekkebrev." In English, this translates to a "joke letter." They are often written as a poem on specially created cut paper. But the writer does not sign the letter using his name. Instead, he uses dots – one for each letter in his name. According to tradition, if the woman correctly guesses who sent her the joke letter, she gets an Easter egg that same year.


In Brazil, the country's huge Carnival celebration overshadows Valentine's Day. So Brazilians mark a similar day later in the year, on June 12. The holiday is called Dia dos Namorados, or Lovers' Day. Brazilians celebrate with gifts of cards, flowers and chocolates, in the same way as Americans. But instead of celebrating Saint Valentine, they celebrate Saint Anthony.

The following day, June 13, is Saint Anthony's Day. The Portuguese Catholic priest was known for helping couples in their relationships. For that reason, Saint Anthony is considered the marriage and matchmaking saint.


The Philippines celebrates Valentine's Day in a big way – with large group weddings. In fact, in recent years, February 14 has become one of the most common wedding anniversaries in the country.

Hundreds, or even thousands, of Filipino couples gather in one place to say "I do" during a public ceremony. Local government officials may lead the mass weddings. The ceremonies are often free, and include flowers, a wedding cake and sometimes even wedding rings.

Does your country celebrate Valentine's Day or a day like it? Let us know in the comments section.

I'm Caty Weaver.

And I'm Ashley Thompson

Rei Goto wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

romantic adj. of, relating to, or involving love between two people

dot - n. a small round mark

overshadow - v. to cause (something or someone) to seem less important or impressive when compared to something or someone else

saint n. one of God's chosen and usually Christian people

mass adj. involving, affecting, or designed for many people