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Date night: Five alternatives to Valentine’s Day around the world

Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us once again. But while 14th February is perhaps the most famous annual celebration of love, it is certainly not the only one. Across the globe and throughout the calendar year, different cultures celebrate love in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.

So open the wine, put on some mood music, and let’s find out…

Slovenia: St. Gregory’s Day, 12th March

It’s fitting that a country with the world “love” in its name should celebrate romance in its own special way. In Slovenia, 12th March is St Gregory’s Day (Gregorjevo), which marks the first day of spring, new beginnings and, perhaps, new love too.

According to tradition, young women would look up into the sky on this day and the first bird they saw would suggest the type of husband they would later marry. Romantic destiny, it seems, can be determined by the flight of a soaring eagle or just an overfed pigeon. Be careful where you look…

In the era of app-based dating, Slovenian youngsters are probably more likely to look to their smartphones than to the heavens for amorous inspiration. However, the celebration of St Gregory’s Day continues with the gifting of heart-shaped honey cookies to the object of one’s affections. 

Catalonia, Spain: St Jordi’s Day, 23rd April

In Catalonia, 23rd April is a day for lovers, red roses and books, in no particular order. On St Jordi’s Day (the patron saint of Catalonia), tradition has it that men give the important women in their lives a single red rose.

No one is quite certain of the origin of this custom which dates back to the Middle Ages, but some suggest that it is celebration of the chivalry of St Jordi (known as St George to English speakers), who killed a dragon to save a princess.

Because 23rd April is also World Book Day, a parallel tradition has also sprung up in which women give men a book in return on this day. In the 21st century, the gifts are becoming less strictly delineated along gender lines. It’s nice to know that, for one day of the year at least, language and love are inextricably combined.

Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and more: White Day, 14th March

In many parts of Asia, Valentine’s Day doesn’t arrive once a year. In fact, it arrives twice in less than five weeks.

Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, men in Japan, South Korea, China and other Asian countries present their beloved with chocolate on White Day. Far from having its origins in an ancient tradition stretching back centuries, however, White Day was in fact invented by the confectionary industry in Japan in 1978 as a caramel-coated gesture towards gender equality.

In the countries in Asia where it is observed, it is tradition for women to buy men a gift of chocolates on the original Valentine’s Day. Outraged by the blatant disregard for women’s candy-based parity, the National Confectionary Industry Association of Japan decided to redress this imbalance through the creation of White Day, where men could “pay back” a chocolate offering from a woman with their own. Of course, another annual spike in chocolate sales would simply be a by-product of this egalitarian act.

Whatever the original motivations, White Day is now firmly entrenched in the Asian romantic calendar. And sharing truffles two months in a row can’t be a bad thing, right?

Brazil: Dia dos Namorados, 12th March

When one of the biggest and most exuberant parties in the world is taking place in all of the streets around you, it’s perhaps not the best time of year for a candlelit dinner for two.

In Brazil, the annual carnival usually falls on or around 14th February, so the country’s annual celebration of love takes place at a slightly quieter time of year. “Dia dos Namorados” (Lovers’ Day) takes place each year on 12th June, and couples often share traditional gifts such as flowers and chocolates.

It may not be so easy to book a table for two in Rio or São Paulo on 12th June as it is on Valentine’s Night. But if they do find a cosy corner, at least lovers won’t have to compete with a nearby samba band in full swing for their partner’s undivided attention.

Israel, Tu B’Av: 4th/5th August 2020

In Israel, Tu B’Av is a romantic holiday which has been described as a Jewish equivalent to Valentine’s Day. Dating back to Biblical times, the day marked the beginning of the grape harvest and was traditionally celebrated by unmarried women dressed in white garments dancing in the local vineyards.

These days, it is seen as an auspicious day for romance and a chance for lovers young and old to spend time together and exchange gifts. Before getting down to the serious business of the grape harvest, of course.

Love is all around

Romantic love is universal, but clearly it is celebrated in many different ways and on different days around the world. At Alpha Lifestyle, we believe this kind of cultural knowledge adds real value to the work we do for our clients and the way they do business.

How? Well, we work with brands to create localised content and topical campaigns that target key audiences in powerful ways. With our detailed market insight and linguistic expertise, we can help you to build stronger connections with your customers, increase brand loyalty and enhance sales.

And, of course, it helps to know when to send flowers and chocolates too.

If you’d like to find out more about how we could help you, please drop us a line at lifestyle@thisisalpha.com .

In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lots of love,

Alpha Lifestyle xxx