Love is all you need. Well, according to The Beatles, that is. And it really is all around. With Valentine’s Day lurking just around the corner, the entire world seems to be digging out every single shade of pink (strawberry, bubblegum or magenta decorations?) and red (maroon, cayenne or maraschino roses?) that can be found. But the 14th of February isn’t about flowers, cards and chocolate for everyone.
Since St Valentine himself walked the streets of Rome, people from all four corners of the globe have taken this holiday and combined it with their own traditions to create their own unique day of love. So let’s take a little trip around the world and score the countries out of ten on their loved-up Valentine’s plans.
Just across the Channel, our French neighbours top the romance charts in Paris where hundreds of people gather together to celebrate. These couples, and singletons too, each release a white dove with a kiss in front of a wall that is covered with a thousand ‘I love yous’ written in over three hundred languages. What a way to beat a cheesy card!
But the French didn’t always celebrate so… peacefully. Remote villages in the countryside used to observe a tradition called drawing for’: unmarried individuals in the community, both old and young, would go into houses facing each other and begin calling out from one window to another, before pairing off with their chosen partners. Once this had happened, if a man failed to be enthralled with his chosen Valentine, he had the option of deserting her.
Of course, this didn’t go down particularly well with the ladies, who would gather later that night to build a bonfire and burn all images of their ungrateful sweethearts – whilst shouting abuse as loudly as they could.
So we’re going to go for a good 6/10 for the French. Only four marks for romance, but a further two for the girls who get their own back!
Let’s head a little further downwind to South Africa, where Valentine’s Day is celebrated with a huge amount of enthusiasm and passion. Preparations for Valentine’s Day begin well in advance. The first step is to adorn shops and markets with brightly coloured flowers and symbols of love – hearts, birds and images of Cupid. Pubs, restaurants and clubs are booked weeks ahead of the day for people to gather to celebrate this occasion of love together, whether they are a young lass of 16 or an old bloke of 60. Thousands of people flock to the city of Durban, where a grand festival takes place each year. Some people even take part in mountaineering or white water rafting to mark the occasion!
The people of South Africa get 8/10 for their overall enthusiasm and adoration for Valentine’s Day.
If you’ve ever been to China, or indeed been around during a celebration of Chinese New Year, you’ll know that the Chinese are huge fans of bright, deep reds and extravagant gold. As well as selling the usual array of flowers, cards and chocolates, they also have a selection of very specific and colourful rituals to mark Valentine’s Day.
Lovers usually pay a visit the Temple of Matchmaker together to pray for their love, happiness, and possible marriage. Singles also visit the Temple to pray for luck in love. Everyone is involved in this unique celebration: young, unmarried girls offer their prayers to the Weaving Maid star and ask for a blessing to become smarter. When the Vega star is at its highest point in the sky, girls may perform a test by placing a needle on the surface of water. If the needle floats, then it signifies the girl’s intelligence and maturity, indicating that she is eligible to start searching for a husband. Girls that pass the needle test are also granted one wish.
So overall, China scores a good 7/10 for mixing traditional and modern customs in their Valentine’s Day celebrations. Extra points awarded for noting that sometimes it takes brains to make a marriage work.
Last but not least, we head to Brazil, where the temperature’s hot and they know how to party! The Brazilians celebrate Valentine’s Day on 12th of February, which they dub ‘Lovers’ Day’ or ‘Dia dos Namoradas’. They believe that lovers will be blessed in the eye of St Anthony with a long and healthy marriage.
Not only do couples exchange cards, flowers and chocolates like we do, but the 12th of February is also a day of joy, happiness and celebration all over the country. Celebrations are marked by hectic arrangements to create a colourful festival with samba dancing, folk music and live performances from popular rock singers and dancers. All over the cities of Brazil, people gather together for night-long parties and events.
These red-blooded Brazilians get an honourable 9/10 for their extraordinary effort and sheer love of life!
So there you have it: five different countries with five different ways of celebrating this truly Marmite occasion. But whether you love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit the world celebrates in style.
Image: ConstantineD on Flickr