Image by Jamie Street
Words by Lydia Tomkinson
Valentine’s Day is just about as divisive as marmite. For those in relationships the idea of a day dedicated to all things love and romance is something to look forward to every year, whilst for others seeing Valentine cards and chocolates in shops as February comes around becomes just another reminder of how single they are. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying how big a celebration Valentine’s Day is culturally and commercially, celebrated worldwide with different countries all having their own traditions and customs, many a lot more interesting and meaningful than the classic box of chocolates and a wilting bouquet.
Starting off close to home, the traditional welsh day of love is actually celebrated on the 25th of January and is called St Dwynwen’s Day. This day is supposedly the most romantic day of the year in Wales, named after the St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers. The day is celebrated much like Valentine’s Day itself, with gifts and cards exchanged and time devoted to loved ones. However, a somewhat more unique tradition that dates back to the 17th century involves the carving and gifting of welsh love spoons to friends, family and lovers as an expression of affection and to showcase the carver’s skills.
With its beautiful scenery, Wales is spoilt for choice of romantic locations, but one of the most notoriously romantic places to visit with your lover is Llanddwyn Island. The island is home to many wells and springs that are rumoured to have powers, one of these being Dwynwen’s Well, where supposedly the eels who live inside it can predict the success of your relationship. Finally, not only is it a stunning location, it is also the resting place of St Dwynwen herself.
In Japan Valentine’s Day is celebrated quite differently to the west. As tradition, the women are to be the soul gift giver on the day, expected to present their partner, as well as male friends and relatives, with a whole lot of chocolate. At first glance this may seem very unfair, but women do get their chance to be treated too, on a day called White Day, which is celebrated a month later on March 14th. This day is seen as a ‘reply day’ to the chocolate gifts given by the women previously and here it is expected for men to give gifts 2-3 times the value of what they were initially given!
Japan has no shortage of romantic locations to explore with loved ones. From taking a trip up the Tokyo tower at night time and looking down at the city below to having a more relaxed stay at a traditional ryokan (Japanese Inn), where you and your partner can enjoy your own private hot spring and indulge in a multi course kaiseki dinner.
In Argentina a single day dedicated to love each year just isn’t enough, instead they celebrate it for a whole week in July – referred to as the ‘week of sweetness’. This tradition was originally created by the sweet company Arcor in 1989 to promote their sweets in their ‘candy for a kiss’ campaign and since then it has developed into a whole holiday.
During the week couples shower each other with sweet treats and affection. It is estimated that during this time of year sales of confectionery items increase by 20%. It is also an extremely popular time for dating, with restaurants getting completely booked up.
A vastly popular romantic destination in Argentina is the Mendoza region. With its high concentration of vineyards, beautiful scenery and luxury hotels, it draws in honeymooners and tourists alike, offering experiences such as wine tasting, horseback riding and gourmet meals. Perfect for a romantic getaway.
In Denmark the celebration of Valentine’s Day is a fairly recent development, only being fully embraced in the early 90s. Since then, it has been celebrated in a mostly traditional way but with a Danish twist. Like the conventional Valentine’s Day, flowers and cards are given to loved ones, however Danish Valentines’ cards are traditionally transparent and depict images of lovers giving each other gifts, which is revealed when the card is placed in front of the light. Importantly, red roses are out of favour on a Danish Valentine, instead snowdrops are given to lovers and friends on the day. The Danish also write a “gaekkebrev”, or joke letter, that is sent on Valentine’s Day, signed with a ‘…’ instead of the name of the sender. If the recipient of the gaekkebrev guesses the sender’s identity correctly then they are owed an Easter egg from them at Easter.
Copenhagen is a top romantic destination in Denmark, the capital boasting a massive range of activities and sightseeing for couples to get up to or to enjoy on your own. These include taking a trip to the world’s second oldest theme park, Tivoli Gardens, getting lost amongst the exhibits of the national museum, or if you want to be treated, a visit to the pedestrian shopping street Strøget to provide all the retail therapy anyone could ever need.
February 14th in Ghana is celebrated as National Chocolate Day. The national celebration of chocolate was instituted in 2005 as a way to boost sales and consumption of Ghanaian chocolate and cocoa products in collaboration with the Cocoa Processing Company, Ghana Cocoa Board and cocoa producing companies. So, of course it coincides with Valentine’s Day when people are naturally consuming and buying more chocolate products.
For a romantic getaway in Ghana look no further than Koforidua, the capital of the Eastern Region in South Ghana. Here you can explore the rich, natural environment Ghana has to offer and hike to see sights like the Umbrella Rock and Akaa Water Falls or visit the beautiful Aburi Botanical Gardens.