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These days, Valentine’s Day is a multi-million dollar industry, but in fact, February 14 isn’t the only day when the world’s thoughts turn to love. While Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated in multiple countries, other romantic holidays are celebrated on other days of the calendar.
In Brazil, for example, Dia dos Namorados falls on June 12, while the Qixi Festival in China takes place on the seventh night of the seventh lunisolar month. Many of these holidays include displays of affection apart from boxes of chocolates, flowers, and cards. Here are eight other romantic holidays around the world — maybe you’ll adopt some of these customs as your own.
St. Dwynwen’s Day (Wales)
Each year on January 25, the Welsh honor Saint Dwynwen, the patron saint of lovers. On this day, it’s customary for a person to give his or her love interest a “love spoon.” The tradition of love spoons dates back to the 17th century. When a man was interested in a woman, he would carve an elaborate wooden spoon and present it to her. The more elaborate the design, the greater his commitment to her.
The intricate designs on the spoons have meaning. An anchor symbolizes commitment, a wheel symbolizes hard work, a lock symbolizes a new home, and a horseshoe symbolizes good luck. Each spoon is different, and the symbols represent what is important to the couple. In the old days, accepting a love spoon would mean that the couple were serious about each other and likely to wed, though today it’s more of a symbolic gesture.
Día del Cariño (Guatemala)
In Guatemala, February 14 is referred to as Día del Cariño. The name means ”Day of Affection” in Spanish, which is significant as this is a time to celebrate love in all its forms, including friendship as well as romance. It’s a time to thank that special someone, whether that’s a childhood friend or work colleague who’s always there for you.
One of the day’s festivities is the Old Love Parade, which takes place in Guatemala City. The city’s senior citizens don fancy costumes or traditional Mayan dress and parade around the Plaza de la Constitución aboard decorated floats or on foot. It’s a powerful reminder of how love isn’t just for the young.
St. Jordi’s Day (Spain)
In Catalonia, the gift of a red rose is associated with Saint Jordi rather than Saint Valentine. He was canonized as the region’s patron saint in 1667, though the English-speaking world knows him as Saint George, hero and dragon-slayer. In the Catalan version of the legend, the action takes place in the town of Montblanc in the province of Tarragona. According to the myth, the dragon’s spilled blood blossomed into a beautiful red rose.
Catalonians flock to their local market on St. Jordi’s Day, held each year on April 23, to pick up a red rose tied with a ribbon in the colors of the Spanish flag (red and yellow) in honor of his chivalry and bravery. It’s likely that the tradition started in the 19th century when a Fira dels Enamorats (Lovers’ Fair) took place in the courtyard at the Palau de la Generalitat in Barcelona. In addition to a rose, Catalonians also exchange books with ears of wheat tucked inside the pages in recognition of St. Jordi’s other role — the patron saint of farmers.
St. Gregory’s Day (Slovenia)
While Valentine’s Day is marked in Slovenia, the real action transpires on Saint Gregory’s Day, held on March 12. In this corner of Eastern Europe, this is the first day of spring, a time when animals mate and romance is in the air. According to Slovenian folklore, young women once looked up at the sky and believed that the first bird they saw would provide a clue to the type of man they were destined to marry.
There’s another tradition associated with this date. Across the country on Saint Gregory’s Eve, particularly in villages, such as Tržič, Kropa, and Kamna Gorica, children place candlelit models onto rivers and watch them float downstream. These tiny boats and houses are known as “gregorčki.” They symbolize the start of lengthening days; in the past, this meant local artisans no longer needed to work under artificial lamps and could rely on natural daylight instead.
Gækkebrev are beautiful letters that have a design cut into the paper, just as you might cut out paper snowflakes for your Christmas decorations. They are sometimes referred to as “joke letters,” not because of their content, but because the sender wouldn’t include their own name. Instead, they would sign off with a trail of dots designed to tease the recipient — and each dot represented a letter of their name.
In Denmark, these delicate letters were originally sent at Easter. If the person to whom the letter was sent could work out the clues, they’d be owed some Easter chocolate or candy. Some gækkebrev were clandestine marriage proposals and the sender would slip a flower inside, hence the letters’ other nickname, “snowdrop letters.” More recently, as Valentine’s Day has become a bigger deal in Denmark, the tradition has slipped back to February 14 and gækkebrev are instead sent by secret admirers hoping to alert the object of their affection to the possibility that someone’s keen on them.
White Day, Black Day, and Green Day (South Korea)
Why limit yourself to one Valentine’s Day when you can have one every month? In South Korea, the 14th day of certain months is marked in varying ways. It starts on January 14 with “Diary Day,” when people exchange a blank diary with a loved one. Next, men are the focus on Valentine’s Day (February 14), with Korean women gifting chocolates to their loved ones, but on White Day, held on March 14, the women are showered with gifts, such as chocolates and flowers.
The love doesn’t stop there. Black Day (April 14) is a chance for single people to shine and celebrate self-love with each other. On Green Day (August 14), couples head outdoors to find a romantic spot at a park or forest and whisper sweet nothings. Depending on what stage of the relationship you’re in, there’s also Kiss Day (June 14) and Hug Day (December 14). Document your romance on Photo Day (September 14), toast your affection on Wine Day (October 14), and make shared memories together on Movie Day (November 14). No matter when you visit, South Korea is all about love.
Día dos Namorados (Brazil)
Unlike in Portugal, where Día dos Namarados ("Lover's Day" or "Day of the Enamored") is celebrated on February 14, the holiday is celebrated on St. Anthony’s Eve (June 12) in Brazil. When a couple is getting married, it’s Santo António (Saint Anthony) rather than Saint Valentine whose blessing they seek for a happy life together.
As on Valentine’s Day elsewhere, lovers exchange flowers and chocolates as a sign of their affection. But it’s also customary to perform rituals called simpatías. For example, one type of simpatía can help you work out if the person you are with will become your spouse. All you need to do is place two needles in some water before you go to bed. If the needles are together the next morning when you wake up, it’s time to start planning the wedding.
Qixi Festival (China)
The Qixi Festival takes place in China on the seventh day of the seventh lunisolar month, giving rise to its nickname, the “Double Seventh Festival.” It’s been celebrated since the Han Dynasty and is based on a legend involving a wealthy weaver girl named Zhinhu, the daughter of a goddess, and an impoverished cow herder named Niulang. They fell in love and started a family, but when the goddess caught wind of what was happening between the two, she grew angry. In a rage, she dragged her daughter away and created a river in the sky to keep the couple apart.
Magpies acting as go-betweens formed a bridge across the heavenly river and Zhinhu crossed back to see her husband. Her mother was so touched by their love that she relented and allowed them to see each other once a year, hence the Qixi Festival. In addition to more modern gift-giving customs, girls don traditional hanfu robes and make shaped fried pastries called qiaoguo.