Love is not a factory-manufactured product that is stamped with a specific 'best by' date; it's a sacred emotion and is celebrated on different days in other cultures
Increasingly, more and more people view Valentine’s Day as an overly commercially-driven day with businesses dictating how love should be demonstrated. It often involves buying overpriced roses and chocolates, followed by a big-ticket dinner. The truth is, love is a year-round affair, and people in different parts of the world find love and celebrate love in unique ways. Here are five of the most fascinating.
1. Chap Goh Meh (The First Full Moon Festival) in Penang, Malaysia
On the tropical island of Penang, Malaysia, the first full moon in the lunar calendar marks the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebration. It is also a day for singles to find romance. On this night, unmarried women gather at Fort Cornwallis to throw tangerines into the sea with the hope that their true love will pick them up. Although tangerines float on the water, they all look the same; perhaps this is why modern single ladies have opted to write their mobile phone number or email address on the tangerines before tossing them in. Technology has certainly helped with romance in Penang.
2. La Día de Sant Jordi (Lover’s Day) in Barcelona, Spain
One of the most celebrated events in Barcelona, Lover’s Day is held on 23 April and commemorates the city’s patron saint, Sant Jordi (St George), who is also the patron saint of lovers in Catalonia. The celebration is reminiscent of Valentine’s Day but with a twist: men give women roses, while women give men a book.
Why roses? It is believed that a dragon was running havoc in a small village near Barcelona so Sant Jordi killed the dragon and brought peace to the village, and at the spot where the dragon bled, a rose blossomed.
Why books? It is believed that book plays a part because Sant Jordi’s day coincides with the death of Shakespeare (23 April 1616), which happened to be just a day after the death of the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (22 April 1616).
3. White Day, Japan and neighbouring countries
Taking place exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, White Day was first celebrated by the Japanese on 14 March 1978. Since then, this event has gained much popularity and spread to neighbouring countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, among others. On this day, men who received gifts from women a month before are expected to return the favour with a box of chocolates. White chocolate is often used, hence the name White Day.
4. Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day), Brazil
Brazilians don’t usually celebrate Valentine’s Day because it often coincides with the Carnival Week which is held between the Friday afternoon before Ash Wednesday and noon on Ash Wednesday. Instead, they celebrate Lover’s Day on the eve of St Anthony’s Day, 12 June. St Anthony is the patron saint of marriage and on this special day, couples in Brazil exchanging gifts, flowers, chocolates and cards. Singletons can also use this day to find romance – cinemas, bars and clubs have a string of good-spirited programs that aim to play cupid.
5. Dragobete, Romania
Dragobete is the Guardian of Love in Romania who also signifies the arrival of spring on 24 February. Young men and women put on their best clothes and go out in groups, searching for spring flowers to make love spells. In Southern Romania, there is a game called ‘racer’ where the girls run down to the village with the boys chasing after them. If a boy catches a girl that he likes, he can kiss her openly. The kiss is a playful display of engagement between the two, though often such engagements become real.
This article was first published in 2017 and updated 29-Jan-2020.
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