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.

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.

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.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 50 Most Searched Halloween Costumes on Google

Dinosaur costumes are far from extinct.
Dinosaur costumes are far from extinct.
Vlad Fonsark, Pexels

If you’re assuming everyone else at your Zoom Halloween party will come up with creative costumes, leaving you to fly under the radar as the only witch in attendance, you might want to rethink your plan. According to Frightgeist, a Google-run seasonal site that analyzes Google Trends data, witch is the most searched Halloween costume this year.

That’s up from last year, when it was edged out of the top spot by It. The second chapter of the film had just premiered in September 2019, and it seems Pennywise’s popularity has ebbed a bit since then—on this latest list, It plummeted to 23rd. But as Spirit Halloween recently told us, scary clown costumes are always in high demand; and clown is the fifth most searched term on Google. Other film and television releases from last year have also faded from memory. In 2019, Stranger Things came in 13th place (season three had hit Netflix in July) and Toy Story charted at 17th (Toy Story 4 had hit theaters in March), but neither term made this year’s list.

In general, Frightgeist’s breakdown is a mix of specific pop culture influences and generic characters. Spider-Man, Batman, and Wonder Woman all made the top 35, for example, but so did superhero. Some people aren’t interested in playing the hero at all: Harley Quinn and the Joker landed at numbers three and 30, respectively, and devil came in eighth place (though angel beat that by two spots).

As usual, you’ll probably see plenty of costumes from a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars is the 28th most searched costume term, and both Yoda and Baby Yoda made the list, too. Others are taking inspiration from classic Halloween films, like Beetlejuice (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1993).

See the top 50 below, and explore Frightgeist’s full list—including results from your area—here.

  1. Witch
  1. Dinosaur
  1. Harley Quinn
  1. Rabbit
  1. Clown
  1. Angel
  1. Fortnite
  1. Devil
  1. Ninja
  1. Spider-Man
  1. Cowboy
  1. Doll
  1. Zombie
  1. Pumpkin
  1. Purge
  1. Pirate
  1. Cheerleader
  1. Fairy
  1. Vampire
  1. Chucky
  1. Bear
  1. Superhero
  1. It
  1. Mermaid
  1. Skeleton
  1. 1980s
  1. Batman
  1. Star Wars
  1. Unicorn
  1. Joker
  1. Wonder Woman
  1. Powerpuff Girls
  1. Princess
  1. Ghost
  1. Dragon
  1. Beetlejuice
  1. Hocus Pocus
  1. Spider
  1. Cowgirl
  1. Descendants
  1. Power Rangers
  1. Monsters, Inc.
  1. Yoda
  1. Tinker Bell
  1. Lion
  1. Minnie Mouse
  1. Baby Yoda
  1. Gray Wolf
  1. Minecraft
  1. Cop