7 Sweet Valentine’s Day Traditions From Around the World

rfranca, iStock via Getty Images
rfranca, iStock via Getty Images

In the United States, Valentine’s Day means cards, flowers, and hard-to-snag dinner reservations. As the Western holiday has spread around the world, many cultures have put their own spin on it. Some of these traditions—such as mass weddings in the Philippines—are charming, while others—like obligatory gift-giving in Japan—inspire feelings that are less than warm and fuzzy. When Valentine’s Day arrives on February 14, these are some ways lovebirds around the world will be celebrating.

1. Denmark celebrates Valentine's Day with poems and codes.

Valentine’s Day in Denmark is a chance for secret admirers to express their feelings with a twist. Instead of sending straightforward love letters, men in Denmark send funny poems called gaekkebrev to the objects of their affection. The paper-cut notes are signed anonymously with a line of dots at the bottom, one for each letter in the sender’s name. If recipients can guess their secret admirer’s identity based on this clue alone, the sender owes them an Easter egg.

2. In Japan, it's tradition for women to give men sweets on Valentine's Day.

Women gift chocolate known as "giri choco" to co-workers on Valentine's Day.
Ishikawa Ken, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In the 1950s, a chocolate company introduced Valentine’s Day to Japan in hopes of cashing in on the Western tradition. But something got lost in translation. Instead of showing more conventional images of men gifting chocolate to the ladies in their lives, early ads insisted Valentine’s Day was a chance for women to buy chocolate for men. The suggestion resonated with people, and today it’s a vital part of Japanese Valentine’s celebrations. The custom isn’t limited to romantic partners. In a practice known as giri choco (translated as “obligation chocolates”) women are expected to buy chocolates for the men in their lives on February 14, including their male coworkers. This gets as expensive and socially complicated as you might expect, and it has become so unpopular with women that many workplaces have banned giri choco altogether. If Japanese women are dreading Valentine’s Day, they can look forward to White Day on March 14, when men return the favor with gifts of their own.

3. In South Africa, women pin their Valentine's name to their sleeves.

People in South Africa literally wear their hearts on their sleeves on Valentine’s Day. It’s become a tradition for women there to write down the name of their lovers—or their secret crushes—and pin it to their shirt sleeves. It's believed the custom was inspired by Lupercalia, a rowdy ancient Roman fertility festival that also fell in mid-February.

4. Thousands of people get married on Valentine's Day in the Philippines.

Valentine’s Day is a popular wedding anniversary in the Philippines. Each year, in honor of the holiday, local governments host mass weddings for couples who may not be able to afford a more traditional wedding ceremony on their own. These events are usually presided over by local government officials. In 2019, the mayor of the City of Dasmariñas married around 500 couples at once.

5. In Wales, lovers traditionally gift each other symbolic spoons.

Carved wooden spoons, traditionally gifted by Welsh lovers.
Nacho Mena/iStock via Getty Images

The Welsh version of Valentine’s Day is Dydd Santes Dwynwen, or Saint Dwynwen's Day, and is celebrated on January 25. The most distinct aspect of the holiday, which honors the Welsh patron saint of lovers, involves exchanging love spoons. These are exactly what they sound like: fancy wooden spoons carved with symbols representing the gifter's love. It's believed the tradition may have started with Welsh sailors courting prospective wives, and it’s still used as a romantic gesture in Wales today. Handcrafted love spoons can sell online for between $50 and $100.

6. Valentine's Day in Estonia is about friendship.

Valentine’s Day in the United States is all about couples, but in Estonia, singles aren’t left out. Their version of the holiday is called Friends Day, and friendship is treated as just as worthy a cause for celebration as romantic love. If they are looking for a love connection, single people can ride a special “love bus” that shuttles them around with other eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

7. El Salvador celebrates Valentine's Day with a loving twist on Secret Santa.

El Salvadorians celebrate Valentine’s Day with a game called “Secret Friend.” Anyone who’s participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange around Christmastime will recognize it. A group, such as a class of kids, writes everyone’s name on pieces of paper and draws slips. The name someone picks is the person they have to buy a gift for by Valentine’s Day. The tradition has a sentimental spin that sets it apart from Secret Santa, though: When it’s time to give their gift, the giver must say one kind thing about the recipient.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

5 Ways to Keep Your Dog Calm on the Fourth of July

iStock/Getty Images Plus/melissabrock1
iStock/Getty Images Plus/melissabrock1

The Fourth of July can be rough for dogs. Fireworks displays light up their senses with unfamiliar noises, flashes, and smells, and parties flood their homes with strange guests who may invade the rooms they usually have as private retreats. And when distressed dogs escape, howl, or thrash around the house, Independence Day can quickly become a nightmare for their owners, too. To minimize Fido's stress this holiday, we spoke to some dog experts to discover the best ways to keep your canine calm on the Fourth of July.

1. Exercise Your Dog

Anthony Newman, the dog whisperer who runs New York City's Calm Energy Dog Training, says that exercise is a great way to help your dog let off some nervous energy. "Whenever Fido is going to be neglected for an extended period of time, or around any stressful stimuli, it always helps to tire him out just before—and even during the night if you can," Newman says. "As the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog! He'll be calmer, happier, and more peaceful."

2. Keep Your Dog Indoors

Dr. Stephanie Liff, head veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care, says the best place to keep your pet during a fireworks show is inside and away from the windows. "If the pet is very scared, an escape-proof crate or a sound-insulated room, such as an internal bathroom, may help the pet to feel more secure," Liff tells Mental Floss. "If you cannot keep your pet inside, make sure that the pet is prevented from escape (monitor all exits and tell guests to monitor your pet)."

3. Socialize Your Dog

While your dog may feel more secure in a room away from all the noise, Newman points out that keeping your dog isolated in another room for too long can be stressful for your pet. "Release his curiosity and let him in on the fun, to run around and play with both two-legged as well as four-legged guests," Newman says. "Then back to his obedient room, bed, car, crate, or spot. Rinse and repeat as needed throughout the night."

4. Take Control of Your Dog

According to Newman, the best way to keep your dog calm during the chaos of July 4th is to stay in charge. "If your dog winces, shivers, and runs away at loud noises, the last thing he wants is to feel like nobody else is looking out for him," Newman says. Don't let your dog run rampant around the house or follow him around trying to soothe him. Instead, Newman says it's important to "take control by attaching a super-light leash that you can grab and lead him whenever you need."

5. Explore Medicating Your Dog

In extreme cases of nervousness, Liff says that you should talk to your vet about medication to sedate your dog.