Valentine’s Day around the World: a Post-mortem

Posted by Gayatri Bajpai & filed under Diversity, Identity, Pop Culture.

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Photo: The Huffington Post

I meant to write about Valentine’s Day on the day, but I was busy being serenaded by an Adonis who put Taylor Lautner’s abs to shame (and was actually legal for me to date). I certainly did not wake up from a chocolate-induced coma, alone, with a bottle of Jack half-empty by the sink, where I had used it to brush my teeth…a few times. I did not stalk men on facebook and begin poke wars to assuage my fears of impending spinsterhood. And I did not mistake the local barista’s ‘have a good day’ for flirtation. I’m better than that. Valentine’s Day does not make me bitter.

With healthy scientific curiosity, I did, however, google “Valentine’s Day around the world” and I found a few interesting factoids on how different peeps in different places pay homage to that naked little angel child, or the dead Saint, or each other, or whatever…

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Photo: The Huffington Post

Kind of like McDonald’s burgers, every country has put a different spin on the merchandise. Some like it cheesier, some, allegedly the Austrians, are business-like. Lolling at this description on a site called Around the World, evidently a reliable source of knowledge: Austria has some rather obscure courtship customs that may or may not be associated with Saint Valentine’s Day. Nonetheless, it is customary for a young man to present his beloved with a bunch of flowers on February 14.

They really like to mix it up in Vienna, eh? ICH VANDST FLAUVERS FOR VALENSTEIN’S DAY. Either their ‘obscure customs’ are just too close to the straight and narrow to be worthy of research, or they are not for polite company.

I jest, Austria.

Japan, Taiwan and Korea have even come up with extra Valentine’s Days on different dates with a variety of customs and gifts to go with. Hand-made chocolate, a marshmallow inspired holiday, and girls-giving-only-day are some. In Hong Kong three couples win a wife-carrying race:

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Photo: The Huffington Post

In all seriousness, do check out The Huffington Post, for some awesome pictures of goings-on around the world on the 14th of Feb. I love the kissing fish in Beijing, especially because it just looks like a fish is kissing its reflection. (Is that species-ist? That they all look the same to me?) Being in love with yourself never works, fish, I’ve tried it. One of you inevitably has a wandering eye, or thinks the other you is fat…

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Most of the pictures on The Huffington Post are from the Middle East, some in countries where Valentine’s Day has been considered a Western holiday that runs counter to Islamic tradition. Counter to a lot of people’s presuppositions, it’s being celebrated with gusto (kinda)! (GO MULTINATIONAL CORPORATE TAKEOVER! Way to accidentally promote diversity)

I know for sure that in India some right-wing religious fundamentalists have often gotten uppity about Valentine’s Day being a Western holiday and symbol of frivolous, decadent western ways, and done the only right thing…attacked gift stores like Archies! Hey guys, when it comes down to it, the holiday was originally in honour of that saint-dude (or a bunch who go by the same name), and second: way to kill the fun!

Yeah, much of the hype benefits consumption and commercialism and yadda yadda, and perhaps a dash of decadence (through no fault of the church)…and I am the first to say Valentine’s Day as we know it now is cheesy…but gosh darn! give the masses their freedom to spend money on other people’s Hallmark poetry!

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