From obligation chocolate and anonymous poems to friend celebrations and cutlery, these peculiar Valentine gestures are as diverse as the countries they originate from - but speak the same language of love
In Japan, it's the women who hand out the chocolate. And it's the kind of chocolate they give you that matters. Different chocolate signifies different relationships.
Giri-choko, for example, literally translates as 'obligation chocolate' and is given to men without any romantic intention like bosses, colleagues, relatives and close male friends. Cho-giri choko, on the other hand, is pity chocolate; cheap chocolate that girls give to people they don't really like but feel sorry for, such as an unpopular co-worker.
Top of the heap is honmei chocko, favourite or 'true feeling' chocolate that is given to boyfriends, lovers and husbands. If the honmei chocko is hand made by the woman in question, the receiver is in for a real treat.
Not ones for missing out on a business opportunity, the Japanese have created another day a month later called White Day, where men reciprocate by presenting gifts to women that are two to three times more valuable than the gift they were given on Valentines Day.
The women in South Korea follow their Japanese sisters in presenting chocolate to men on February 14. And they have their own version of White Day too, where Korean men return the favour.
There is a twist however. In South Korea, singletons celebrate single life by catching up with their unattached friends and tucking into jajangmyeon, a dish made up of white Korean noodles and black bean sauce. Known as black noodles, smug married Koreans joke that it is a dish of mourning. Guess they shoulda put a spoon in it.
In Norway, secret admirers send the objects of their desire funny little poems called gaekkebrev, the only clue to their identity being a dot representing each letter of his name. If the recipient guesses who the poem is from, they earn themselves an Easter egg on Easter. If she's stumped, she has to give the man an egg.
It's what everyone admirer dreads hearing, especially on Valentine's Day. Let's be friends. But in Estonia Valentines Day is called Sōbrapäev, or ‘Friends Day.’ People exchange cards and gifts among friends with a cheery ‘Happy Friends Day.’ Just what you want to hear from the cute guy you’ve had your eye on for years.
The Welsh do Valentines Day a bit earlier on January 25th. And they do it a bit differently – by gifting love-spoons. The spoons are an age-old tradition where Welsh men would carve intricately carved spoons and present them to the woman they were interested in. The designs they carved were symbolic and often had hidden clues. The number of beads attached, represented the number of offspring the man was expecting his beloved to produce.
Not so long ago, French single people celebrated Valentines Day by calling out to other single people living across the road until they were all paired off. If the men didn’t like their match they would simply leave the woman for another man to call. Called une loterie d’amour, the tradition often left women unmatched. However, according to the rules of tradition, they could get together, light a bonfire and toss pictures and belongings of the guys who rejected them. Sadly, the government banned it.