Happy Valentine’s Day!
Although relatively new, the Danish have embraced Valentine’s Day their own by exchanging pressed white flowers called Snowdrops. Men also give women gaekkebrev, a joking letter, which consist of a funny poem or rhyme on intricately cut paper and signed with anonymous dots. If the woman who receives the letter can guess who the sender is, she is awarded with an Easter egg later in the year.
Valentine’s Day is a very popular holiday in South Korea, especially with young couples, Variations of this holiday run each month on the 14th from February to April. On February 14th, it is up to women to woo their loved ones with chocolates and flowers. March 14 is known as White Day and this time it is up to the men to not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers but to step up the game with a gift. And for those who are unable to celebrate either holiday, there is a third holiday on April 14th called Black Day. It’s a day when all singles will mourn their solitary status by eating dark bowls of jajangmyeon, or black bean-paste noodles. Well I’ve heard that jajangmyeon tastes really good, so something good is at least coming out it :).
While the celebrations are similar to that of Western countries, one thing sets Phillipine’s Valentine’s Day apart from the rest of the world. And that is mass wedding ceremonies. On February 14th, thousands of couples gather around public areas to get married or renew their wedding vows.
Qixi Festival, China
The Qixi Festival (Seventh Night Festival), also known as the Qiqiao Festival, is a festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl (Niulang and Zhinü) in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day on the seventh month on the Chinese Calendar. This celebration has been celebrates since the Hans Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD).
According to Chinese Folklore, Niuland was a kind-hearted Cowherd and Zhinü was a fairy and the seventh daughter of a goddess and the Jade Emperor. Niulang with the help of his ox (the demoted cattle god) married a Zhinü, who became a weaver girl. They had two children, one boy and one girl. Zhinü’s mother, a goddess, returned Zhinü to heaven. Niulang pursued using the ox’s hide. The goddess separated them by a river of stars (the Milky Way), but magpies were allowed to form a bridge for them to meet once a year (Qixi).
Traditional Customs: Although dying out, they are still practiced in rural areas
- 1. Showing skills (demonstrating dexterity) was the most popular custom for women in the evening of Qixi. The longest standing way to “plead skills” was to speedily thread a needle under moonlight. Young women also carved exotic flowers, animals, and unusual birds, usually on a melon skin.
- 2. Worshiping the weaver fairy (the star Vega), Zhinü (/jrr-nyoo/) involved a table of offerings: tea, wine, fruits, longans, red dates, hazelnuts, peanuts, and melon seeds. In the evening young women sat around the table, displaying their needlework, gazing at Vega, and praying for a good husband and a happy life. Then they’d play games or read poems until midnight.
- 3. Honoring oxen: Children picked bunches of wild flowers and hung them on the horns of oxen in honor of the legendary ox. See below.
- 4. People made and ate ‘Skill Fruit’ (巧果 qiǎo guǒ /chyaoww-gwor/ ‘skill fruit’): fried, thin pastries of different shapes.
Present Customs: They are much like the Valentine’s Day celebrated in the Western world like exchanging flowers, chocolates, and gifts.
Dragobete is a traditional Romanian holiday with Pagan roots. It is also called Cap de primavară (Beginning of Spring), Santion de primavara (Saint John of the Spring), Ioan Dragobete (John the Dragobete) or Logodnicul Pasarilor (Fiancé of Birds). This day is known as the day when the birds are betrothed as it is around this time that the birds begin to build their nests and mate. Those that take part in the Dragobete are said to not fall sick for the rest of the year. If the weather is good, boys and girls will look for snowdrops or other plants that give meaning to love incantations for their significant other.
Dia dos Namorado, Brazil
Brazilians skip Valentines Day on February 14th and head straight to June 12th which is Dia de Namorado (Lover’s Day). Besides exchanging chocolates, glowers, and gifts; music festivals are held throughout the country. The next day June 13th is Saint Anthony’s Day. Single women observe rituals called simpatis in hope that Saint Anthony will bring them a husband or boyfriend.