Valentine’s Day through the eyes of many cultures

Billions of people across the globe celebrate Valentine’s Day, but it is not always just about flowers or chocolates on this special date

By LYDIA NATHAN

YOU may argue or debate about the origins of Valentine’s Day and its patron saint, but one fact remains — Feb 14 is the one day that the world has chosen to celebrate love, romance and friendship.

Billions of people across the globe celebrate Valentine’s Day, but it is not always just about flowers or chocolates on this special date.

Celebrations around the world occur differently, all with an insert of adaptation of concepts that are close to heritage and tradition.

Here, we look at some cultures and how this special day is celebrated yearly.

Thailand
Despite it not being native to the country, the people from “The Land of Smiles” are said to celebrate this special day with gusto and a more localised twist.

Bangkok’s Shrine of Love, also known as Trimurti Shrine, where locals believe that anyone who prays there will find true love

One particular spot that becomes an attraction on this day is Bangkok’s Shrine of Love, also known as Trimurti Shrine, where locals believe that anyone who prays there will find true love and achieve their dreams.

Flower markets are also booming during this time of the year in preparation for this day and the Thais have become very fond of tying the knot on this day.

For instance, in the district of Bang Rak, also known as the “Village of Love”, couples would start lining up before dawn to register marriages, hoping to receive one of the 12 golden certificates given only on Valentine’s Day.

Japan
In Japan, the day of love is relatively new as a celebration, but the people have inserted customs and traditions special to them with some quirky changes.

For example, on Feb 14, the women are expected to give their male counterparts gifts instead and the favour is returned exactly a month later. On March 14, they also celebrate White Day, a time for men to buy gifts of flowers and chocolates for the women in their life.

Interestingly enough, the types of chocolates given also play a role and are not all equal. The Japanese people have categorised three types of chocolates to be given. “Giri Choco” is given as obligation gifts to co-workers and acquaintances.

Meanwhile, the “Honmei Choco” is considered to be love chocolates and are given to romantic partners which is typically of a higher quality and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye, while “Tomo Choco” is for single women to give each other, symbolising their bond in friendship.

China
In China, Valentine’s Day is celebrated pretty much the same way as Westerners do, but there are additional days of celebration that are very similar.

Recognised as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, the Qi Xi Festival has its background set in a heartwarming story of a goddess Zhi Nu who falls in love with Niu Lang, a cow herder.

The marriage angered the gods and she was taken away, only to be allowed to visit her husband and children once a year. The festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, which is in August.

In the southeastern city of Shaoxing, girls hide in pumpkin farms, hoping to hear the whispers of the star-crossed lovers, while in Hunan, women collect water from the mountains, believing it to be blessed by the goddess herself.

France
With a reputation of being one of the most romantic cities in the world, it is believed the first card was sent from the Duke of Orleans, Charles to his wife, while imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Today, sending cards to each other remains a popular tradition, with much thought going into the type of cards, colours and its wordings.

Another tradition in the past was the Loterie d’amour, or “Drawing for Love”, where both men and women go into houses that face each other and then take turns calling out to each other and pairing off.

On the Flip Side — Not All are into Valentine’s Day
Simply because of the ties that bind this day together with Christian and Roman vestiges, not all cultures are fond of the day to celebrate love and romance.

For example, right here in Malaysia, while many still celebrate it for fun, many from different thoughts and ideologies would just frown upon it.

While the more liberal quarters would gingerly go to the florists to surprise their loved ones, the more conservative would view it as a successful commercial venture.

With a majority of the population being practising Muslims, some scholars are of the opinion that the day is not in line with Islamic teachings.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, a group named “Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran” (Indonesia without dates) was formed to vehemently oppose this day this year.

Instead, the movement encourages youngsters to remain single and immediately marry someone without dating.

Pakistan is another country to join this bandwagon, after banning the day alongside media coverage of it.

The ban was introduced by Islamabad High Court in 2017 after a citizen petitioned it as a holiday imported from the West and was against the teachings of Islam.