Valentine's Day celebrations are pretty straight-forward in the States. Guys get girls large bouquets of roses or (for the hipsters) free-range wildflowers that cost way too much and die way too soon.
Boxes of chocolates and other gooey and caloric treats are traded in exchange for some kind of physical fornication before both parties feel too fat to undress. And hundreds of dollars are spent at fancy dinners across the city as plates of deconstructed foie gras pancakes and other trendy molecular meals are passed from table to table.
And we assume there's some actual hugging and sharing of true feelings thrown in there…somewhere between unwrapping the chocolate-covered teddybear and the cheese course.
But what do our friends across the pond, over the sea, and around the bend do to show each other they feel warm and fuzzy? We found out.
In Denmark, Sweden and Norway it's the cut flower industry that pushes the holiday, much like Hallmark does in the U.S. Sweden started celebrating “All Heart's Day” in the 1960s and according to the Internet (which always speaks the truth, right?) flowers and cosmetics sales skyrocket. And only one other holiday exceeds this sales number — Mother's Day.
In Norfolk (East England) there's a “Jack” Valentine dude who supposedly knocks on your back door to leave candies and gifts for kids. Creepy. But in Wales they throw all tradition to the wind and celebrate their own patron saint of lovers, St. Dwynwen, on Jan. 25.
Our friends in Finland and Estonia celebrate holidays with jumbled names that translate to “Friend's Day.” This day is devoted to remembering and appreciating everyone they've ever loved, including old roommates, childhood cronies, and anyone they consider relevant enough to warrant a thought or postcard.
Romania has had its own Valentine's Day type of deal, called Dragobete and celebrated on Feb. 24. However, some Romanians have adopted some of America's V-Day traditions in lieu of Dragobete, which has pissed off several nationalist organizations that feel our Valentine's Day is simply superficial and — essentially — Western bullshit. (They have a point.)
A Slovenian proverb says “St. Valentine brings the keys of roots,” so Valentine's Day in Slovenia is when crops and flowers sprout and the first official day of farming starts. Apparently birds propose to each other and get married on this day, too.
After a major marketing push in Asia, American-style Valentine's Day has become a “thing” in counties including Singapore, China and South Korea. And apparently those three countries spend the most on gifts — but interestingly enough, it's tradition in South Korea and Japan for women to give chocolate to men on Feb. 14.
Men hand over non-chocolate goodies to their lady-friends one month later on “White Day,” and anyone who was left out on those last two holidays celebrate “Black Day” on April 14 by eating black noodles to mourn being single. That's so…sweet.