Valentine's Day, which falls on 14 February, was historically a religious festival to mark the feast of St. Valentine, one of the saints from Catholic Church who was martyred. But today, the day is celebrated by people from across the globe irrespective of religion and region. It has turned into an occasion where people express their love for someone close to them - lovers, friends, and family members - and different countries have their unique ways of celebrating it.
Valentine's Day is celebrated extensively in the US though it's not a public holiday. Streets wear a festive look on this day and even classrooms are decorated with heart-shape papers. Besides cards, people exchange gifts like roses, chocolates, flowers, candy boxes and champagne. Programs are organized for children to perform songs, dance and plays on the occasion. Special parties are also organized across the country for couples and lovers on the occasion.
In Brazil, Valentine's Day is for the romantics and is celebrated like a big social event. People from different parts of the country come together and display their unique cultural heritage. Streets turn today with lights and the celebration is accompanied by music, samba dance and parties. They also exchange gifts like cards and sweets.
People in Britain celebrate the day with buns baked with caraway seeds and plums. They have the tradition of paying tribute to St. Valentine by writing romantic verses, lyrics and sonnets, besides exchanging gifts. Even children celebrate the occasion. They sing their favorite love songs and people give them candies, toys etc in return. Interestingly, there is a belief that the first man a girl sees on Valentine's Day morning is her man.
Being a Muslim society, public display of love and affection is forbidden but the air is slowly changing with youngsters beginning to celebrate the day, mostly in a discreet manner. Despite strict instructions against celebrating Valentine's Day by religious authorities, red roses, red heart-shaped balloons etc are sold on roadsides and special delicacies are baked for the occasion
Valentine's Day has more to do with women than men in Japan. It's an occasion for women to shower their men with gifts, especially boxes of chocolates. Interestingly, they celebrate White Day on 14 March, wherein menfolks give chocolate more expensive than the one they received on Valentine's Day to women.
Valentine's Day is a popular event in South Korea and their tradition is similar to Japan, wherein men and women shower each other with gifts on different occasions. However, they have created another day for the singles. On 14 April, whoever didn't receive chocolates meet up in restaurants for noodles.
For young people in China, Valentine's Day is an occasion to give flowers, chocolates and other gifts to their lovers or someone they love. Streets are adorned by colorful decorations and gift items for the day. Many hotels set special menu on the occasion for people on date.
Indians, especially young people celebrate Valentine's Day like in other countries. People give flowers, sweets, and dine out with someone they love. However, some Hindu organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Sri Ram Sena, and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) are opposed to people celebrating it, arguing that it's against Indian culture. There was a huge uproar in 2009 after a group of people claiming to be from Sri Ram Sena attacked women in a pub in Mangalore, India. This incident led to Pink Chaddi Campaign or Pink Underwear Campaign, wherein people were asked to protest the stand of the organization by sending pink underwear to its office on Valentine's Day. The campaign received good response from the people and hundreds of underwear were couriered. The issue was solved after the organization and campaigners found a truce.
French people used to celebrate Valentine's Day in a different custom known as "une loterie d'amour" where single men and women enter the houses that face each other and try to pair off. However, this tradition was banned by the French government. Today, the people celebrate the day like most other countries by exchanging gifts.
Valentine's Day celebration was initially restricted to adults but the youth and the kids became an integral part of the occasion. Gifts like cards, chocolates etc are exchanged between friends and lovers like in other countries. Interestingly, they have brought pigs into the celebration. For them, pigs represent luck and lust, and so it is given in the form of pictures, statues, sweets etc.
Unlike in most countries, Australians give expensive gifts to their loves ones on Valentine's Day. The tradition of gifting extravagant items like cards, satin cushion and flowers was started by merchants in the country in the mid-nineteenth century. Gold rush in the Ballarat mines led to people showering their loved ones - lovers, friends, spouse and family members - with expensive gifts.
Italians celebrate Valentine's Day by showering gifts to people they love. They have the tradition of gifting Baci Perugina, a small chocolate enclosed with a hazelnut, along with a love note written in four languages. It's also a must to treat your loved ones with pizzas on Valentine's Day.