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International love lessons

ASU students share how Valentine's Day is celebrated in their home nations — many do, many don't, Ghana calls it 'Chocolate Day'

February 13, 2017

Valentine’s Day looked very different in Ancient Rome. The day of flowers and teddy bears has origins in the feast of Lupercalia, which involved heavy drinking, animal sacrifices and whipping young women with leather — it was said to improve fertility.

Today, of course, we’ve done away with ritualized beatings and sacrifices, and the holiday has found popularity in different corners of the world.

Here’s a look:

WALES: A traditional romantic Welsh gift is a love spoon, an intricately carved symbolic tokens of affection. Men don’t carve them much anymore — they buy them.

SOUTH KOREA: In South Korea it’s the women who woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers in a Sadie Hawkins-style celebration. Men reciprocate on March 14. April 14, meanwhile, is reserved for the single to lament their status, as they eat bowls of black bean paste noodles, called jajangmyeon.

GHANA: For a sweeter tradition, Ghana recently renamed their Feb. 14 “Chocolate Day” to commemorate the country’s former status of the largest cocoa producer in Africa. International Leadership in Education Program (ILEP) student at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College Patricia Benuyenah said the name change helps the country to focus the celebration on love and chocolate and not the overly amorous intentions of the youth.

“In my country people use that day to really express their love by giving gifts to people, not only those that are very close to them. Some people take the opportunity to visit homes of the aged and elderly to give them gifts.”

BRAZIL: In South America, Brazilians have their Dia dos Namorados on June 13 as February can hold no larger celebration than Carnaval.

“We don’t celebrate on the same days as the other countries,” said ILEP student Rosemburg Holz. “This is a month we don’t have other celebrations, so it’s good for the commerce in Brazil.”

It’s St. Anthony of Padua Day, patron saint of happy and prosperous marriages, and its reserved for boyfriends and girlfriends unlike other countries.

BULGARIA: In Bulgaria, the day is up for debate according to Humphrey Fellow at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Bulgarian journalist Ivaylo Vezenkov. While the day is celebrated with hearts and bears like the U.S., he points out that much of the country sees the holiday as a foreign introduction.

“When you open Facebook on Feb. 14, you see discussions going everywhere about ‘should we actually celebrate this foreign holiday or not?’ But people do it anyway,” Vezenkov said.

NO THANKS: Not every country celebrates, or at least Valentine’s Day is something done privately by overly romantic youth, according to students from Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco and Tanzania.

“I believe that every breath that comes in and out is love, and so I’m obliged to love every day. I have to love every day, so I don’t need to wait for Valentine’s Day for love,” said ILEP student Grace Mabula of Tanzania who doesn’t celebrate the day because of her religious beliefs.

For Mohamed Bataoui of Morocco he says the majority of the country does not celebrate, though there is a small percentage of young people who might choose to celebrate privately, but they are in the minority.

“I have never, ever celebrated Valentine’s, and I will never,” Bataoui said. “First of all Valentine’s is not a part of my culture, not a part of my religion, at all. It’s something we imported from the West. … We do not celebrate it.”

“I do believe that love doesn’t need to be celebrated once in a year, so I do believe there are many, many ways you can celebrate the Valentine’s Day in your own specific ways that fit your cultural and religious teachings.”

By Deanna Dent and Ken Fagan/ASU Now

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