09 Feb 2020 | 4 MIN READ

Unusual Valentine’s Day Traditions From Around the World

Tatev Kyurkchyan

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner filled with lots of chocolate, flowers, teddy bears, and candlelit dinners. This is how most of us know Valentine’s Day, but many cultures around the world celebrate the day of love with their own unique traditions. 

Obligatory Chocolate (you read that right) 

Japanese giri-choco or obligation chocolate on Valentines Day

In Japan, it’s tradition for the women to treat men on Valentine’s Day, and not just their husbands or boyfriends. Women gift giri-choco (obligation chocolate) to their male friends, coworkers, or family members on this day as a sign of gratitude. They save the best for their boyfriends, husbands, or partners by gifting them honmei-choco: special handmade chocolate. They make this treat by hand at home to show just how special their husbands are to them. Despite this, the women don’t recieve a gift back until one month later on White Day, when their husbands will give them much more expensive presents. 

3 is the Lucky Number

two girls on Pepero Day, similar to Valentine's Day

In South Korea, there isn’t just one day to celebrate love in the year, there’s at least 3. Similar to the Japanese tradition, women gift chocolate to men in February and they are returned a gift one month later. But in November, Koreans have an unofficial holiday called Pepero Day, where couples gift each other boxes of Pepero (chocolate covered cookie sticks) as a loving gesture. There’s also an inside joke that eating Pepero sticks will help you stay skinny because the cookie itself is thin and skinny. What if you don’t have a significant other? Koreans have the solution to that too. Every year in April there is also “Black Day” for all the singles. Anyone who isn’t dating celebrates the day by wearing black clothing and eating their famous black sauce noodles. 

So Many Weddings

Philippines mass wedding ceremony in church on Valentines Day

Want to get married on Valentine’s Day? Consider doing it in the Philippines. Besides the usual V-day celebrations, every year hundreds to thousands of couples have mass weddings together at the same time. If you don’t want to be at the center of attention on your wedding day, this is the perfect choice. The local government started funding many of these weddings to help people who couldn’t afford the luxury of a fancy wedding ceremony. 

Sleep Tight

Armenian salty cookies (axi blit) for Saint Sargis' day

Are you single and still looking for your other half? Then go straight to sleep. This is one of the traditions in Armenia for St. Sargis’ Day (the Armenian equivalent of of Valentine’s Day). This day is very special particularly for single or unmarried girls. At night, girls eat a very special, but also very salty, cookie before bed. It’s an easy recipe that anyone can make at home and sometimes they even shape them into small hearts. Anyone who eats the cookie must be able to fall asleep without drinking anything after. If they are lucky, St. Sargis will show them their future husband in their dream who will bring the girl a glass of water for her thirst. While it is mostly just considered a fun tradition, there have been several cases that the girls found and married the man they saw in that dream. 


two finnish men on Valentine's day

Not everyone is coupled up for V-Day, and that’s totally okay in Finland and Estonia. Both countries celebrate their version of “Friendship Day” instead. Ystävänpäivä in Finland and Sõbrapäev in Estonia use this day to value their friends. The most popular gift this day is sending a special greeting card that celebrates friendship. Since there are so many cards sent, most post offices employ extra staff just for this day. But gifts aren’t the main focus of the holiday, people are more encouraged to make plans with their friends and celebrate face-to-face over dinner or small parties. Since Valentine’s Day can also be stressful, this takes the pressure off both singles and couples on this day.

Chocolate Goes to the Soul

National Chocolate Day celebrations in Ghana

Whether single or taken, a little chocolate on Valentine’s Day is never a bad idea. That’s why in Ghana, besides the usual V-Day traditions and celebrations, it’s also National Chocolate Day. Since there is a large amount of cocoa production in the country, everyone is encouraged to treat themselves to some local chocolate on this day. Chocolate day is taken quite seriously and is planned early on. It is considered one of Ghana’s most visited tourist attractions. For 2020, there are several competitions that will be held, including a photo and painting contest under the theme “My Cocoa Story”.