“True Feeling” Chocs and Marzipan Figurines: The Strangest Valentine’s Day Traditions Revealed

While Brits tend to buy a bunch of roses or visit a nice restaurant, Valentine’s Day traditions in some countries can be a lot less conventional.

Huw Owen, co-founder at tailor-made holiday platform TravelLocal comments: “Brits aren’t typically considered the most romantic of people, with displays of affection being relatively understated compared to many countries.

“It might not come as a surprise that other nations are more creative in their romantic pursuits, and while some traditions are still going strong around the world today, others have evolved over the years, while some are even banned.” 

To mark Valentine’s Day on 14th February,  TravelLocal reveals some of the lesser-known, obscure Valentine’s Day celebrations around the world and how they’ve changed.

Italy

Of course, taking the top spot has to be the region of love where Valentine’s Day originated. The Roman Empire and the legend of Saint Valentine paved the way for romance today. In Italy, Valentine’s Day is often called La Festa Degli Innamorati, meaning “the feast of lovers”, and is strictly for lovers only.

Going back in time, a more unusual tradition was for unmarried women to wake before dawn on Valentine’s Day and stand by the window, waiting for a single man to pass. Some believed that the first man she saw would be the one she married.

Fast forward to the present day: Italians will often celebrate by gifting chocolates and flowers, but a new tradition has also seen the “locks of love” or “lucchetti dell’ amore” become popularised. This sees young lovers attach padlocks to bridges and railings and throw away the key to show eternal love.  Although once a charming way to prove one’s commitment, to allow the monument or bridge to last without damage, we would perhaps avoid throwing away the key and instead bring the padlock home. The intact structure of our beautiful cities will thank you for it.

How to say “I love you”: Ti Amo 

France

Valentine’s Day in France is more subtle and less commercialised than in some other countries. The French prefer to celebrate with romantic and traditional gestures, such as gifting chocolates and flowers. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but things weren’t so subtle back in the day.

Now banned in France is “loterie d’amour”, or “drawing for love”. This involved single people getting together in a house or on a street to be paired together. If the man wasn’t attracted to the woman he was paired with, he could leave her. It’s reported that the women left behind would then get together to burn pictures of the men while shouting curses.

How to say “I love you”: Je t’aime  

Argentina

As well as celebrating Valentine’s Day with the more traditional, universal activities, Argentinians also celebrate “sweetness week” in July, where kisses are exchanged for sweet treats such as chocolates. It started as a commercial invention but is now a tradition each year. Who needs one day when you can have a whole week?

How to say “I love you”: Te amo 

Japan

In Japan, it’s common for women to gift all the men in their lives chocolates on Valentine’s Day, from boyfriends to coworkers, but not all chocolates are equal.

The more special men in their lives receive “honmei choco” or “true feeling” chocolates, and the less special will get “giri choco” or “obligatory chocolates” or even “tomo-choco”, which translates to “friend chocolate”. Interestingly, men don’t gift anything back until March 14th, known as “white day”, where gifts must greatly exceed the value of what was gifted by the female.

How to say “I love you”: Aishite imasu 

Spain 

While the Spanish do often celebrate the usual Valentine’s Day traditions in Valencia, the “day of love” actually falls on 9th October during the Feast of St Dionysus. On this day, it’s common for people to make and give their loved one a “macadora”, a marzipan figurine – a symbol of their love together.

Further north in Catalonia, the “day of love” is celebrated on St George’s Day, 23rd April. In the past, the woman would gift a book to the man in their life, while the man would offer the woman a single rose. Fast forward to the present day; it’s common for books and roses to be gifted between partners on St George’s Day. As it’s also “The Day of the Book”, the streets of Barcelona are filled with stalls of booksellers and florists, bringing to life a shared celebration of love and culture.

How to say “I love you”: te quiero or when in Valencia: t’estime