Guess what! It’s February. And, that means that romantic holiday is nearly upon us. How quaint to express affection to someone once a year. The fourteenth of February is celebrated as the name day of eight different Christian martyrs. The custom of sending Valentines or gifts has nothing to do with the martyrs, however. It just happened that the Romans celebrated a springtime festival on that same day. In time the gifts were called Valentines. But, the custom went worldwide. So, let me tell you about some ways Valentine’s Day was celebrated internationally. Whether the customs are still held – who knows?
In South Korea, Valentine’s day is very popular. Women launch it with chocolates, candies, and flowers for the fellows they fancy. Then, on March 14, known as White Day, the men reciprocate with chocolates and candies and flowers. If the person is Still single by April 4, mourning is done by eating darkly colored bowls of Jajangmyeon, noodles with black bean sauce. Sounds delicious. Pass the dish, please!
In Scotland, Valentine’s Day was celebrated with a festival in which singles unite to draw names from a hat. The lover offers the chosen a decorative love knot that symbolizes devotion and everlasting affection. Take it or leave it.
In Denmark, couples write rhymes called Gaekkebrev. But, instead of signing her name, she leaves only a series of dots hoping that her intended guesses her identity. I’d rather buy a card that can be discarded.
At one time in Greece, wreaths of spring flowers were placed on the doorknobs of the home the girl or man admired, leaving the recipient to guess who had placed it. But, with all the high riser buildings now, it would be kinda awkward climbing those balconies.
In Germany, lovers professed their passion with pigs. That’s right! Those chubby farm animals were a popular representation of romance because they symbolized love and lust. Not live pigs! Instead, they purchase pig-shaped pastries decorated with pink icing. (I hope!)
In Italy, unmarried girls would wake up before sunrise on Valentine’s Day hoping to catch a glimpse of their future husbands. They believed that the first man they see was the one destined to wed her before the year ended. (Gee! Suppose a marauding burglar is seen at that hour.) Baci Perugina, those chocolate covered hazelnuts, are wrapped in a romantic quotes that are printed in four languages. That would cover a lot of ground.
In Slovenia, Valentine’s Day is traditionally the first day of working in the fields. Seeds are sown, birds make their nests, and children send handmade boats holding candies downstream to symbolize the end of winter. Not romantic. But, it sounds a little less threatening and more practical.
The Welsh don’t celebrate St. Valentine’s but they did celebrate St. Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25. In the 17th Century, Welsh men would mark the annual occasion by creating a love spoon with a pattern like a horse shoe, wheel or key. What about a heart?
In times past, the French celebrated with Loterie d’amour, drawing for love. Single men gathered in a house and women were in a house next door, taking turns by calling out the name of their chosen in the opposite house. But, the tradition got out of hand when the women weren’t happy with being ignored. It proved humiliating. Usually, it was the man that abandoned the woman. That aroused the unchosen women, who made images of that man and burnt them, uttering curses, in huge bon fires causing the French government to ban it. It would have been better if the man bought a lottery ticket and handed it to the woman of his choice. At least, if it turned out to be a winning ticket and she didn’t like him, she wins anyway.
In Japan, the holiday is celebrated by sending chocolates to men or women called Hommei Choco (True feeling chocolate).
Anyway, the holiday is celebrated better here. Cards, candies, gifts, a diamond ring, or a dinner for two with candle light usually to someone who you know reciprocates your affections. No guess work that could prove embarrassing. Or, if someone like Yiannis is around, the day could be celebrated by gifting him with an I.O.U. followed by a, ‘guess who?’