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February 2015

Quirkiest Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world

Discover the most unique Valentine’s Day celebrations

By now Valentine’s Day is, for better or worse, synonymous with chalky candy hearts and greeting cards oversaturated with red. But that’s not all there is to the quintessential “love holiday”, as today we take a look at some of the quirkier Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world.

Japan & South Korea

In Japan and South Korea, men are spoiled with chocolates and treats from women. Whether they be business associates or loved ones, women have been partaking in this one-sided gift practice since 1936, when a Kobe-based candy maker known as Morozoff Ltd. first ran the campaign prompting the idea. The custom has since spilled over into South Korea, where men are also lavished thusly. Among the chocolaty variations include Honmei-Choko (true love chocolate) for lovers and Giri-Choko (obligatory chocolate) for associates. A month later, on another marketed holiday known as White Day, gifts go the other way around from men to women.


Singles rejoice in Malaysia, as their most unique practice favors the unattached. Single women write their telephone numbers on oranges, which they then toss into the river. If they're lucky, their soul mate will find their lost fruit and call them. Even if the recipient has no intention of calling, he'll at least get some vitamin C. Additionally, fruit vendors are known to collect said fruit for future sale. Talk about commoditizing love!

Denmark & Norway

In Denmark and Norway, Valentinsdag is celebrated with a game known as Gaekkebrev, in which anonymous cards are sent bearing a clue as to the sender. If the recipient should decipher the clue of dots representing each letter in the sender's name, the recipient receives an Easter egg on the following Easter. If the recipient should fail to figure out who sent the card, it is the sender that receives the Easter egg.


In Brazil, one unique practice by women occurs on the Dia dos Namaorados (Day of the Enamoured) on June 12. Young women write the names of their love interests and place them in a container. On the aforementioned day, a name is chosen at random, the man with whom they ought to wed, making this another good example of being careful what you ask for.


It's banned! In 2011, a local newspaper in Uzbekistan described Valentine’s Day as a celebration of “forces with evil goals bent on putting an end to national values”. Statistically this might make Uzbekistan the country with the lowest rate of loved ones getting in trouble for forgetting the holiday.

The Philippines

Lovapalooza in the Philippines is a mass kissing party first held on February 13, 2004, a marketing event thought up by the toothpaste brand Close-up. During its first year, 5,347 kissing couples attended, breaking the previous Guinness World Record-holding Chile, who, before, hosted a similar event with (only) 4,445 kissing couples. Don't let the description fool you; this is a mass gathering of couples, and not a random sharing of affection.


In Dublin, Ireland, where Saint Valentine was laid to rest at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, Valentine's Day isn't just a day about love and candy hearts, but also one of religion. It might soothe you to know that the reverence for the saint still runs strong in the "heartland" of the holiday.

How do you like to celebrate Valentine’s Day? How do you show your loved ones how you feel? Let us know on Facebook and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world.

Foto: Fotolia, © katie_martynova