On Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day will be celebrated here in the United States with gifts of chocolates, roses, cards and jewelry.
Yet this holiday has been globalized and is celebrated in many countries all over the world, each with its own particular customs. One of these countries is Japan, where Valentine’s Day is very popular — but unlike in the U.S., the girls traditionally give the gifts on Valentine’s Day in Japan.
Valentine’s Day came to Japan around the 1970s and was popularized in department stores. Because women mostly shopped in these kinds of stores, and because the day became more popular during a time of female empowerment, women have mainly been the ones giving gifts in Japan.
A month after Valentine’s, on March 14, the men reciprocate for the gifts they have received on a day called “White Day.” Sometimes, if a guy has gotten multiple Valentines from girls with crushes on him, this is his time to choose one.
Valentine’s Day in Japan is not typically celebrated with large, expensive gifts like jewelry, as it is in the United States. This is usually done on Christmas when couples will go out to a fancy dinner and give each other more romantic gifts.
But on Valentine’s Day itself, Japanese girls have several options for gifts. Giri-Choco, or obligatory chocolate, is one gift that you give nonromantically or to someone who is just a crush. People might give chocolate for families, friends, caretakers, themselves or just people they know.
Honmei-Choco is chocolate that you give to a significant other. It is either expensive or homemade. The effort put into this chocolate shows the love for whoever is receiving it.
In contrast to Japan and the U.S, where Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated and embraced, the holiday is taboo in some areas with a large Muslim populatio. And in countries with Islamic governments, it is illegal to practice this tradition. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the selling of Valentine’s Day gifts like roses and chocolates is done in secret to avoid being caught.
People caught engaging in acts against religious policies, like dancing with someone unrelated to them or sharing roses, could face jail time. At a university in Pakistan, clashes over the holiday being celebrated in 2015 resulted in physical injury.
The Muslim community is divided on whether or not this holiday is OK to celebrate. Some say it is harmless, but some say that it is un-Islamic.
Carnival, a Christian holiday that is heavily celebrated in some European and Latin American countries, usually happens in late February. Carnival is celebrated before Lent and is not traditionally very romantic. But in Peru, both Carnival and Valentine’s Day are celebrated together, and huge wedding ceremonies often take place during this time.
Another tradition in Peru that separates the Valentine’s Day celebration from that of the United States is the act of giving each other orchids instead of roses.
Whether you spend Valentine’s Day with friends, family, a romantic interest or by yourself watching romantic movies, just know that it is also being celebrated in different ways in different parts of the world.