Every February we here in America and other western countries pay tribute to Saint Valentine by giving our sweeties chocolates, absurdly large teddy bears, and of course "some dumb thing from CVS." How would love survive without it?
Well, if you're single or your relationship falls into the "it's complicated" category and you've fantasized about moving to another country just to escape the holiday—sorry, but there's nowhere to hide. All around the world, people have found ways to formally honor love.
White Day (Japan)
Established in 1978, White Day is kind of like Valentine’s Day’s awkward cousin. It occurs exactly one month later, on March 14, and the timing is intentional. In Japan and several other Asian countries, it’s tradition for women to give men chocolates—preferably homemade—on February 14. White Day was created so that men who received a gift can return the favor, this time with white candy. Just as some people blame Hallmark for Valentine’s Day hooplah, some reports say the marshmallow companies are really behind this holiday.
Black Day (Korea)
In response to Valentine’s Day and White Day—i.e. two months of lovey-dovey nonsense—Korea came up with Black Day, the love holiday for singles. Every April 14, singles get together dressed in all black, to commiserate over their lack of romance and eat Jjajangmyeon (black noodles). In Korea the dish is considered comfort food—kind of like our version of cookies and ice cream on the couch. #Winning
Tu B'Av (Israel)
Tu B’Av is actually mentioned in the Talmud, but has only recently come back into vogue as a love holiday. Traditionally, on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av (hence the name), young women dressed in white and danced in the fields outside Jerusalem’s city walls. Male suitors could come watch and pick a wife from among them. Today it's celebrated by giving cards and flowers to loved ones, and is considered a good day for a wedding.
Festival of the Double Sevens (China)
This holiday goes by several names: "Qi Xi," "Festival of the Double Sevens," and "Daughter's Festival," since it's geared toward young girls and women. Based on the legend of Niu Lang and his star-crossed love, Zhi Nu, it falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar sun in the Chinese calendar (this year that’s August 20). According to legend, that was the only day the two lovers were permitted to meet. Today, it's traditional for people to visit the Temple of Matchmaker on the holiday. Young girls are encouraged to pray for sewing skills (because romance?), and some people decorate ox horns with flowers. Recently, western Valentine’s Day has become more popular in China.
In India, Holi is known as the "festival of spring" or the "festival of love." It occurs every year timed to the vernal equinox (this year on March 6). After kicking things with a bonfire on Holi eve, people spend the rest of the festival running around and throwing brightly colored powders on each other. Throughout the color-bombing, people are also encouraged to express love and hug and say "happy Holi." The festival marks the triumph of good over evil, and is meant to be a time of fertility, love, laughter, and forgiveness. Bhang (cannabis) is also consumed.
Historically, this little-known holiday was a day when women would relax, while men would pamper them with gifts and a feast. Celebrated on the 29th of Bahman in the Iranian calendar (February 17), nowadays Sepandārmazgān is simply meant to be a time for people (men) to express love toward their mothers and wives. While Valentine’s Day has been banned in Iran, the Association of Iran's Cultural and Natural Phenomena have pushed to make Sepandārmazgān a national holiday.
Dia dos Namorados (Brazil)
"Dia dos Namorados" literally means "lover’s day," and it's celebrated on June 14 every year. It falls on the day before Saint Anthony’s day—the saint known for blessing young lovers with a happy marriage. The holiday is celebrated much like Valentine’s Day (gifts, chocolate, dinner), but since February 14 falls so close to the raucous Carnival, Brazil essentially just moved V-Day to June. Smart.
Dia del Amor y Amistad (Colombia)
Dia del Amor y Amistad translates to "Day of Love and Friendship" and takes place on September 20. It’s actually a really cute holiday, similar to Valentine’s Day, except you celebrate love for everyone, including friends. In fact, there’s a fun game associated with this holiday called "secret friend," which works like "secret Santa." After picking a name from a jar, you shower that person with little gifts like chocolate, flowers, and cards (secretly of course) for a whole month.
Dydd Santes Dwynwen (Wales)
Most western countries celebrate Valentine’s Day to an extent, and Wales is no exception. However, they also have another, smaller holiday called St. Dwynwen's Day—in honor of the Welsh saint of love—which falls on January 25 every year.
As the story goes, Dwynwen was unable to marry the man she loved, so she prayed to be rid of her heartbreak. An angel came down and granted her a potion which wiped all memory of her lover and turned him to a block of ice. Afterward, God offered Dwynwen three wishes: She wished for her lover to be thawed, for God to help all lovers, and she wished to never marry.
The holiday has seen a resurgence in the last decade or so. In an effort to promote St. Dwynwen's Day, the Welsh Language Board worked with Tesco (a British grocery chain) to distribute 50,000 free cards. People are also encouraged to have a nice meal together, snuggle up, and do other typical romance stuff.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.