Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops. On February 14th, men also give women gaekkebrev, a "joking letter" consisting of a funny poem or rhyme written on intricately cut paper and signed only with anonymous dots. If a woman who receives the gaekkebrev can correctly guess the sender, she earns herself an Easter egg later that year.
A traditional Valentine's Day event in France was the loterie d'amour, or "drawing for love." Men and women would fill houses that faced one another, and then take turns calling out to one another and pairing off. Men who weren't satisfied with their match could simply leave a woman for another, and the women left unmatched gathered afterward for a bonfire.
During the bonfire, women burned pictures of the men who wronged them and hurled swears and insults at the opposite sex. The event became so uncontrollable that the French government eventually banned the tradition all together.
In South Korea…
Valentine's Day is a popular holiday for young couples in South Korea, and variations of the holiday are celebrated monthly from February through April. The gift-giving starts on February 14th, when it's up to women to woo their men with chocolates, candies, and flowers. The tables turn on March 14th, a holiday known as White Day, when men not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers, but up the ante with a gift.
And for those who don't have much to celebrate on either Valentine's Day or White Day, there is a third holiday: Black Day. On April 14th, it's customary for singles to mourn their solitary status by eating dark bowls of jajangmyeon, or black bean-paste noodles.
The equivalent to Valentine's Day in China is Qixi, or the Seventh Night Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year. According to Chinese lore, Zhinu, a heavenly king's daughter, and Niulang, a poor cowherd, fell in love, married, and had twins. When Zhinu's father learned of their marriage, he sent his queen to bring Zhinu back to the stars. Upon hearing the cries of Niulang and the children, the king allowed Zhinu and Niulang to meet once a year on Qixi.
During Qixi, young women prepare offerings of melon and other fruits to Zhinu in hopes of finding a good husband. Couples also head to temples to pray for happiness and prosperity. At night, people look to the heavens to watch as stars Vega and Altair (Zhinu and Niulang, respectively) come close during the star-crossed pair's annual reunion.
Originally, Italians celebrated Valentine's Day as the Spring Festival. The young and amorous gathered outside in gardens and such to enjoy poetry readings and music before taking a stroll with their beloved.
Another Italian Valentine's Day tradition was for young, unmarried girls to wake up before dawn to spot their future husbands. The belief was that the first man a woman saw on Valentine's Day was the man she would marry within a year.
Today, Italians celebrate Valentine's Day with gift exchanges between lovers and romantic dinners. One of the most popular Valentine's Day gifts in Italy is Baci Perugina, which are small, chocolate-covered hazelnuts wrapped with a romantic quote printed in four languages.
In South Africa...
South Africa celebrates Valentine's Day with festivals, flowers and other tokens of love. It's also customary for women in South Africa to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th; women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.
Argentines not only celebrate Valentine’s Day, they also set aside an entire week during July to celebrate "Semana de la Dulzura" or ‘Sweetness Week’ when kisses are exchanged for sweet treats. One kiss per treat!
In Finland and Estonia…
Finland and Estonia slow things right down on Valentine’s Day, opting for a friendlier celebration called Ystävän Päivä in Finnish and Sõbrapäev in Estonian instead. Here, February 14 is all about celebrating friendship, and people exchange presents and cards with the greeting ‘Happy Friends Day’. Probably not what you’ve been waiting to hear from your crush all this time…
In the Philippines, city councils often organise mass civil weddings to help disadvantaged couples who may not have the money for a regular ceremony. A popular date for these mass weddings is right before Valentine’s Day. Sometimes, several hundreds of couples can be married at the same time.