Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is here. In the United States, Valentine’s Day means flowers, hearts, and chocolate. Not every country celebrates Valentine’s Day; but for those that do, I was curious to know if their traditions were the same as ours. Turns out, they’re not. In fact, some of the traditions are downright strange. Here are five unusual Valentine’s Day traditions.
1. In Malaysia, women jot their telephone number on oranges, and throw the oranges into a river. Their perfect mate might pick it up – or perhaps a fruit seller, who collects the oranges and sells them, phone numbers and all!
2. In France, an old custom had women and men facing off with one another inside houses, and shouting to one another. As they yelled they would pair off. If the man didn’t like who he ended up with, he could just dump her. That evening, the scorned women would gather around a traditional bonfire and swear and curse at the men who abandoned them, often burning their pictures or other objects in effigy.
3. In Denmark, young couples engage in Gaekkebrev, in which they write small rhymes or funny poems. Rather than signing them, they jot a series of dots representing their name. If the recipient guesses who the sender is, s/he gets an egg on Easter.
4. In Wales, men give love-spoons to their ladies on Welsh Valentine’s Day. This old tradition probably originated among sailors, who carved intricate wooden spoons to give to a woman in whom they were interested. The designs on the spoon handle were symbolic – hearts for love, locks for protection, horseshoes for luck. Beads indicated how many children the man wanted from the marriage.
5. In England, women would pin bay leaves to their pillow, four at the corners and one in the center, in order to provoke dreams of their true loves. They would recite this poem: “Good Valentine, be kind to me. In dreams, let me my true love see.” This practice has largely been abandoned in modern times.
But, if you’re one of the die-hard Valentine’s Day haters, take heart from Saudi Arabia, which has banned anything to do with the holiday altogether. No gifts, no flowers…not even the color red is allowed!
If any of these sound strange to you, then on this Valentine’s Day, why not throw yourself into our American customs? Surprise your crush or true love with a bouquet of roses, a sweet Hallmark card, or a box of Ghiradelli chocolates. You might be surprised what happens next!