When Americans think of Valentine’s Day, they likely conjure up visions of chocolates, roses and cards adorned with pink hearts.

In the United States, Feb. 14 is a day to shower your romantic interests with gifts and affection. Candy and loving missives to wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends and crushes are the norm.

But America’s penchant for sweets and love letters isn’t standard worldwide. In some parts of the world, wooden spoons are given as gifts of endearment, and in others friendship is the focus of Valentine’s Day instead of romance.

Here is a look at some of the different ways the holiday is celebrated across the globe.
 

Japan

In Japan, women are responsible for getting gifts for their male love interests. Men can return the favor a month later on March 14, referred to as White Day. But the holiday isn’t just celebrated by couples – friends and family members are provided with gifts as well.

Interestingly, there are different types of gifts to give in Japan on Valentine’s Day. Giri-choco is “obligatory chocolate,” and given to coworkers and friends, while Honmei-choco is given to significant others.

The Japanese spend an estimated $500 million on chocolate every year for Valentine’s Day.
 

Philippines

Filipinos take Valentine’s Day a step further than those in the West. On top of traditions shared by the U.S., the Philippines is known for mass marriages on Feb. 14.

When they’re not tying the knot, residents of the Southeast Asian country have been known to impress in a different way – attempting to create a new world record for the most people kissing simultaneously.
 

Wales

St. Dwynwen’s Day is the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day and celebrated on Jan. 25.  Dating back to the 17th century, “love spoons” are given out on the holiday to show affection for significant others or spouses.

These ornate utensils are intricately decorated and were originally carved by men to give to women they wished to court. The spoons are not only given out on St. Dwynwen’s day, but also as a gift for other occasions such as weddings, births and baptisms.
 

Finland

This Northern European Country has only recently adopted Feb. 14 as a holiday, acknowledging the date in 1987. But for the Fins, Valentine’s Day isn’t about romantic love; it’s a celebration of friendship.

Ystävänpäivä, which translates to “Friendship Day,” is the Finnish equivalent of Valentine’s Day. The holiday is marked by gift giving among friends, with cards and notes expressing friendship instead of romance.

However, the influence of Western culture has made the day a popular one for couples to get engaged or married, too.
 

China

China celebrates its version of Valentine’s Day on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. The holiday won’t be for a while yet, as this year’s celebration falls on Aug. 28.

The story of the celebration goes back thousands of years, and portrays a weaver maid and a cowherd who were in a forbidden courtship and separated by being placed on two opposite sides of a river. As the story goes, the two were able to see each other once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month when a group of magpies formed a bridge to reunite the couple.
 

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, Valentine’s Day is outlawed by religious police. Flower and confectionary vendors need to be careful not to be caught selling chocolate or other Valentine’s Day treats while patrons need to make orders in secret.

Acts of affection in public between males and females are looked down upon. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive a car, swim without man’s consent or try on clothes while shopping. 
 

Localizing Holidays

Knowledge of different customs and cultures around the world is key to effective localization. Customizing content for different regions makes for messages that resonate in foreign markets and reach global clients.

Localizing for holidays and celebrations requires an understanding an area’s culture and heritage. It’s important to keep these dates in mind when creating global content.

No matter how you celebrate, United Language Group wishes you a happy Valentine’s Day.

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Global News Global Marketing

Jake Schild

Jake Schild

A former newspaper reporter and native Minnesotan, Jake Schild is a staff writer in the marketing department at ULG.

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