By Claire Wasilwa
February is the month of romance with Valentine’s Day being commemorated all over the world. Loved ones exchange gifts, flowers, chocolates and share meals.
This day isn’t all about flowers though. Different countries and cultures celebrate love in their own way. Some exchange love spoons while others celebrate friendship, and not necessarily romantic relationships.
Others celebrate their countries’ products to promote trade.
Some follow the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, includes fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery.
Here’s a look at how people celebrate love in different parts of the world.
Every February 14, Ghana celebrates National Chocolate Day. It was inaugurated by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Ghana Tourism Authority and Cocoa Processing Company, Ghana Cocoa Board and other stakeholders in 2007.
The aim is to create awareness on the need for Ghanaians to consume cocoa products and help generate more revenue for national development.
Most couples in South Africa celebrate the day with romantic dinners, chocolates and gifts. However, some people follow the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, from which some historians draw links with the origin of Valentine’s Day.
This festival has its roots in the ancient Roman empire, and was observed annually between February 13-15 to avert evil spirits and releasing health and fertility.
However, this festival was considered a pagan rite, so the Roman Catholic Church later abolished it.
Some South Africans however, in an ode to Lupercalia, pin their lover’s name on their sleeves.
Couples in South Korea celebrate the day of love on the 14th of each month. The day of roses is celebrated in May, the day of kisses in June and the day of hugs in December.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated monthly from February through April. On February 14, women woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers. On March 14, a holiday known as White Day, men return the favour by showering their lovers with chocolates and flowers.
Those who don’t have much to celebrate on either Valentine’s Day or White Day celebrate their independence by dining on bowls of black noodles on April 14.
Apart from the usual tradition of flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s Day, most couples in the Philippines officiate their marriages on February 14th.
Mass wedding ceremonies have gained popularity in the Philippines in recent years, leading to hundreds of couples gathering at malls and other public areas around the country to say I do or renew their vows.
These huge events are often sponsored by the government as a form of public service.
According to AdventureFlair, Bulgarians Celebrate Valentine’s Day by pruning vines. They refer to it as The Wine Holiday.
Winegrowers gather and bring fresh bread, fried chicken and wine vessels. Together they select the king – the best producer of grapes and wine, make him a crown of vines.
For more Bulgarians February 14 is entwined with wine and love. Young and old couples celebrate their love with a glass of local wine.
They believe that if you are in a relationship you can celebrate with your partner, and if you are not you can just get wine drunk.
The Welsh don’t have to wait until February 14 to let their lovers know how they feel.
The country celebrates its day of love on January 25, which is called Saint Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. This makes her the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine.
On this day, men traditionally gift women with hand-carved wooden spoons. The tradition is based on the notion that Welsh sailors carved designs into wooden spoons while at sea to bring back to their lovers back home.
Lovers exchange unique and beautifully handcrafted wooden spoons known as love spoons to each other. Since the 16th century, Welsh men curved intricate wooden spoons as a token of affection for women they loved.
ESTONIA AND FINLAND
The two countries celebrate February 14 by honouring both friendship and romantic love. Estonia celebrates friendship day known as Sõbrapäev.
Gifts and cards are given to anyone considered a friend, including neighbours. This is an inclusive day, not just for couples, so family members and friends exchange gifts and celebrate love.
Estonia also has a tradition for single people to ride on the Love Bus in hopes of meeting someone special.
Women in Japan make the first move by giving men gifts. They give out two kinds of chocolate; honmei choco, which is more expensive and often homemade. It is usually given to a special friend as a way of expressing love to that person. Women also prepare bags of giri choco, an inexpensive chocolate, to pass out to friends.
Men return the gesture on March 14, known as White Day. Men gift women with white chocolate and other gifts as a sign of their affection.