International Valentine’s Day celebrations

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Chocolates, love letters, flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner, oversized stuffed animals — these are just some of the gifts Americans exchange to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

People outside the United States often celebrate Valentine’s Day differently, if they celebrate it at all.

South Korea

Gayun Kim stands with her mother in front of the Seoul, South Korea LDS Temple. (Gayun Kim)
Gayun Kim stands with her mother in front of the Seoul, South Korea LDS Temple. Kim’s mother recently celebrated Black Day in honor of her single children. (Gayun Kim)

On the other side of the globe, South Koreans have a Valentine’s celebration that spans across three months.

On Feb. 14, women give gifts to the men in their lives, according to Gayun Kim, a native South Korean and University of Utah alumna.

One month later, men have the chance to reciprocate that love. Men celebrate White Day on March 14 by offering gifts to women. Kim recalled receiving chocolate from her dad and male friends on White Day.

Sometimes on White Day, a person who received a Valentine will “answer back” that affection by giving a White Day gift to their admirer, said Kim.

Madelyn Lunnen poses with a guard at a historical military base in South Korea. (Madelyn Lunnen)
Madelyn Lunnen poses with a guard at a historic military base in South Korea. Lunnen experienced many aspects of Korean culture while living there, including celebrating White Day and Black Day. (Madelyn Lunnen)

BYU history student Madelyn Lunnen studied abroad in South Korea. She explained single people who don’t receive gifts can celebrate Black Day on April 14. Singles gather together and eat “jajangmyun,” or black bean-paste noodles, to mourn their lack of relationship.

Italy

Italy’s Valentine’s Day festivities have evolved over the centuries.

Anciently, the day was a fertility festival called Lupercalia honoring the god of agriculture, Faunus, and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, according to the History Channel.

Now, Italian couples celebrate Valentine’s Day by exchanging gifts, according to BYU Italian teacher and Italian native Cinzia Noble. Noble said Italian Valentine’s Day is for romantic couples, not platonic relationships.

“When I was still living in Italy, Valentine day was celebrated only among couples, not friends, at school, or in the family like you do here,” Noble said.

Estonia

Instead of Valentine’s Day, Estonians celebrate “sõbrapäev,” which translates to Friend’s Day, to include those without a significant other.

Friend’s Day gifts and celebrations are not exclusive to romantic couples, but include all friends.

Emily Farnsworth served an LDS mission in Estonia and returned there for a study abroad. While living in Estonia, she noticed natives wished each other a happy Friend’s Day.

“It’s also called ‘valentinipäev’ and is recognized as a holiday imported from the West,” Farnsworth said. “Estonians are pretty festive about holidays in general.”

The Philippines

In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with dates, cards, flowers, gifts, and karaoke, according to BYU professor and native Filipino Len Novilla.

Novilla said serenading a loved one is a rural courtship tradition. A man would sing outside the window of his sweetheart.

“Filipinos can also be creative,” Novilla said. “In the recent past, mass marriages were held on Valentine’s Day, and nature-themed weddings were held in some places on Valentine’s Day with the couples planting trees.”

Jerusalem

BYU communications disorders student Chelsea Orton studied abroad in Jerusalem in 2016. She said the locals did not celebrate Valentine’s Day, but the students wrote notes to each other to commemorate the holiday.