When my husband and I were living in Portugal, we tried to see as much of the country as possible by taking weekend trips. Several times, we stumbled onto festivals, such as the Festa dos Tabuleiros in Tomar where girls walk in the streets wearing headdresses made of bread and flowers. But by far the most memorable of our accidental-festival trips was the Festa de Sao Goncalo, held in a small northern Portugal town called Amarante.
Taking place during the first weekend of June, the Festa de Sao Goncalo celebrates love and fertility and features special cakes, which couples exchange to show their love and affection. Not only did we, too, exchange these cakes, but we also included photos of them in our Valentine’s Day cards to friends.
There are so many ways to celebrate love all over the world — and I can’t wait to experience each one!
Dia del Amor y Amistad (Colombia)
I love the concept of this Columbian holiday, Love and Friendship Day. By placing the focus on all types of love, the spirit of this holiday reminds me of my childhood Valentine’s Days. On Dia del Amor y Amistad, groups of friends get together to celebrate each other. It even includes a “secret friend” game, which is basically Secret Santa, except that people give each other gifts all month long!
White Day (Japan)
On Valentine’s Day in Japan, women traditionally give men chocolate. And, according to my friend who is currently living in Japan, their chocolate of choice carries a message. Women can give giri choco, which literally means “obligation chocolate” and is usually inexpensive, to male colleagues and acquaintances. To romantic partners, women offer honmei choco (“true feeling chocolate”), which is a higher-quality and more expensive chocolate. One month after Valentine’s Day, Japan’s White Day gives men a chance to reciprocate with white chocolate, marshmallows, or gifts.
Dia dos Namorados (Brazil)
Lovers’ Day is celebrated on the 12th of June in order to avoid a conflict with Brazilian Carnival. The previous day is Saint Anthony’s Day, which pays tribute to a saint who is known for granting happy marriages to young couples. Much like on Valentine’s Day, couples exchange flowers, gifts, chocolates, and go on dates.
Black Day (South Korea)
If you dread Valentine’s Day, South Korea may be the destination for you! On Black Day, singles dress in black and commiserate over their lack of a love life while eating noodles with a black bean sauce. This dish, known as jajangmyeon, is a delicious comfort food that my family actually loves.
Dydd Santes Dwynwen (Wales)
The first time I visited Wales, I noticed the abundance of adorable lovespoons in souvenir shops. Lovespoons are carved out of wood and decorated with romantic symbols like hearts. On Dydd Santes Dwynwen, celebrated on January 25th in Wales, couples celebrate by making the trek to the ruins of Dwynwen’s church on Llanddwyn Island — or by giving each other lovespoons. I took the easy route by buying my husband a lovespoon and presenting it to him at home.
Tu B’Av (Israel)
Tu B’Av is the Israeli day of love. Celebrated in the summer, this holiday dates back to biblical times when single women would wear white dresses and dance in the fields and vineyards for potential suitors. Today, couples mark Tu B’Av by going out to eat and giving each other boxes of chocolates. Yup, it’s just like Valentine’s Day.
In the 1980s, Finland rebranded Valentine’s Day to Friend’s Day to include more people. I love this idea. When I was single in college, my friends and I celebrated each other in a similar way on Valentine’s Day by exchanging small gifts, chocolates, and flowers. Friend’s Day is the perfect time to make your loved ones a scrapbook filled with your precious photos together.
Which international love holidays have you celebrated?