Valentine’s Day can be infinitely more interesting that ho-hum of roses, heart-shaped candies and a plethora of pink. A quick look at how love is celebrated around the world might give you some ideas on how to jump-start the holiday.
Japan: Obligatory Chocolate
Valentine’s Day in Japan (also on Feb. 14) started out as a marketing scheme lost in translation: Women became the givers of chocolates. The quality of chocolate a woman gives to a man depends on his status in her life. A crush, lover or husband would receive honmei-choko or “true feeling” chocolate, like top-shelf truffles. Gal pals exchange tomo-choko, translated as friend chocolate. A male colleague, boss or classmate of whom the girl has zero romantic interests gets the aptly titled obligation chocolate, or giri-choko. (She’s not into you, just socially obligated.) As for the ladies who save the best for last, jibun-choko is self-chocolate because otherwise they have to wait a month to get presents from men on White Day.
Argentina: Friend’s Day
The best celebration of love isn’t always romantic. While the Argentinians do start the month of July off with a week devoted to sweet kisses during Semana de La Dulzura, it’s the celebration of Friend’s Day at the end of July that might be sweeter. Día del Amigo is celebrated in Argentina every year on July 20, after extensive lobbying by Argentine philosopher and dentist Enrique Ernesto Febbraro. He was inspired to choose the day after watching the first moon landing, which he described as “a gesture of friendship, from humanity to the universe.” Argentinians use the day to reconnect with friends far and wide.
NoVA To Do: It’s a no-no to celebrate with your significant other, so grab friends for a feast of South American grilled meats at La Estancia Churrasqueria. // 7810 Lee Highway, Falls Church
Bulgaria: God of Wine
If you want to toast a chubby-cheeked man who isn’t Cupid this February, look no further than your nearest wine bar. Bulgarians celebrate St. Trifon Zarezan, the patron saint of wine growers. There are many origin stories as to how this day came to be, but historians agree it is most likely a merging of pagan rituals celebrating Dionysus, the god of wine. A switch in calendars caused this wine-filled celebration to land on Feb. 14 as well, so take your pick of gods to toast.
NoVA To Do: Wine classes every Friday night at Cork and Fork. // 7344 Atlas Walk Way, Gainesville
Wales: Love Spoons
For a lasting display of affection, consider the gift of a spoon. A Welsh tradition, suitors gifted intricately carved love spoons as a sign they could provide for their future family and to show off woodworking skills.
NoVA To Do: Take this tradition into the 21st century with a class (Feb. 21) on 3-D printing at Nova Labs. // 916 Isaac Newton Square W., Reston
South Korea: Black Day
When your romantic life is as bleak as the weather, don black clothes and drown your sorrows in a big bowl of jajangmyun at a Chinese-Korean restaurant. In Korea, Black Day is celebrated on April 14 for those lonely singles who didn’t get anything on Valentine’s Day or on White Day on March 14. These delicious hand-pulled noodles are a staple comfort food in Korea, where the noodles are smothered in a fermented black bean sauce cooked with cubes of sautéed pork belly and onions.
NoVA To Do: Order a bowl of jajangmyun at Choong Hwa Won. // 4409 John Marr Drive, Annadale