Valentine’s Day is not really a Turkish tradition; however, in the last twenty years it has made an appearance as the result of the rising consumption economy. Just when the red knickers got packed away after the New Year, everything red appears in the shops again. Traditionally Valentine’s Day is the custom of expressing one’s love with an exchange of cards, flowers and gifts. There are several other Valentine’s Day customs and traditions associated with the festival, but these vary in different countries because of social and cultural differences. What remains the same everywhere though is that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love by lovers.
Denmark: Although Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday in Denmark (celebrated since the early 1990s according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark), the country has embraced February 14th with a Danish twist. Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops. On this day men also give women gaekkebrev (a joking letter) consisting of a funny poem and signed with anonymous dots. If a woman correctly guesses who the sender is – she will receive an Easter Egg later that year.
France: With its reputation as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, it’s been said that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Today, Valentine’s Day cards remain a popular tradition in France and around the world. Another old tradition which is now officially banned was called the “une loterie d’armour” or “drawing for love”. This entailed single people of all ages entering houses that faced opposite each other and calling out through the windows till eventually they paired off with each other. If the male suitor was not particularly attracted to his partner, he would leave her for another. All of the single women left would build a large bonfire and ceremoniously burn images of the men that had deserted them whilst at the same time hurl abuse and curses to the ungrateful men.
Wales: In Wales you won’t find the Welsh celebrating Saint Valentine — instead, people in Wales celebrate Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, on January 25th. In the 17th century, Welsh men carved intricate wooden spoons as a token of affection for the women they loved. Symbols would be impressed into these love spoons and each would signify a different meaning. Horseshoes would stand for good luck, wheels would symbolise support and keys would symbolise the keys to a man’s heart.
China: 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.
Philippines: While Valentine’s Day celebrations in the Philippines are similar to celebrations in Western countries, one tradition has swept the country and led to thousands of couples sharing a wedding day on February 14th. Mass wedding ceremonies have gained popularity in the Philippines in recent years, leading hundreds of couples to gather at malls or other public areas around the country to get married or renew their vows en masse.
South Africa: Like many parts of the world, 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 would 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.
South Korea: In South Korea Valentine’s Day is celebrated from February through April. The gift giving starts on February 14th, when it’s up to the women to woo their men with chocolates and flowers. The tables turn on March 14th which is known as White Day, when men not only give their sweethearts chocolate, but gifts are presented as well. For those single women who do not have anything to celebrate; there is a third holiday. Black Day, on April 14th, is where all of the singles mourn their solitary status by eating dark bowls of jajangmyeon (black bean soup).
I am sure there will be many couples going out for a meal this February 14th in Kusadasi. Whether single or married, I hope everyone has a very romantic evening and I will be thinking of you all as I tuck into my black bean soup.
Source: The Ege Eye