When we think of Valentine’s Day, cupids, cards and flowers spring rapidly to mind, and as of last year the UK spent over £1.3 billion to celebrate the day of love, it’s clear that we are a loved-up nation. Far from the origins of the festival - which has its roots in Pagan fertility and then through the martyrdom of two Valentine’s (or, in Latin Valentinus) who both met their end in Ancient Rome on 14th February - we nowadays adopt the ideal of love and romance which was first penned by Chaucer in the ‘Parlement of Foules’. So if you’re looking for some inspiration, why not take a look at some of our world cruise destinations to see how love is celebrated around the world.
Japan - White Day
While love is celebrated nationally on one day in the UK, Japan celebrates it twice with one day for women and one day for men. Women celebrate the western date of Valentine’s by purchasing chocolates for the men in their lives; there are two types, Giri-choco for friends and colleagues and Honmei-choco which is given to a partner or husband. Normally the Giri can be purchased in stores, etc. however the Honmei should be handmade as true love should require dedication.
White Day, which is celebrated in March, is when the ladies can sit back and enjoy as the men are supposed to return the favour with gifts such as flowers and chocolates which should be white, however, certain gifts have hidden meanings and here Keiko from the Japanese Language Blog explains their meanings:
“Marshmallows (マシュマロ) –Ladies, if you received a marshmallow from a man on White Day in Japan, I am sorry, but he might not be too crazy about you.
Cookies (クッキー) - Apparently, men give out cookies to women who they think are ‘just friends’
Candies (キャンデー) - you are a lucky girl if you received candies back from a man you love.”
Hong Kong - The Lantern Festival
On the 15th day of the first lunar month Hong Kong bursts with love, and this day normally happens to fall on the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations, so love really does have the last word.
The focus of the day is the lantern displays which happen through the night and while many may be tempted to head down to Hong Kong’s harbour and look up at the skies, the festival takes place in Hong Kong’s many streets as the festival is not one which takes place only in the sky. The streets are host to hundreds of lanterns which are paraded to the delight of all of Hong Kong’s visitors with the focus being dragons and the zodiac animal for that year. In the past, unmarried women were not permitted to leave their homes except to attend the lantern festival which on this day also turned into a match-making event as so many singles were in one place at one time. It is considered very good luck to meet your match at the festival!
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Tel Aviv – Tu B’Av
While Israel tends to celebrate Valentine’s Day in February, the people of Tel Aviv also take to the streets in late July/early August to celebrate Tu B’Av and it has become one of the most popular days for couples to marry in Israel. The celebration starts when the sun sets on the 14th and runs until sunset on the 15th day of the Hebrew lunar calendar, which normally coincides with a full moon. While there are many stories as to why the festival began, from celebrating intertribal marriages between the founding tribes of Israel to simply marking the summer equinox, the festival itself is gaining popularity each year for matchmakers and singles to meet up in the hope of making a successful match.
China - Qixi
Strictly speaking, the Chinese do not celebrate Valentine’s Day, choosing instead to celebrate Qixi. Also known as the seventh night festival, Qixi sees people celebrate the love story of Zhinu, the daughter of a God, and Niulang, a shepherd, who fell in love and were only permitted to see each other once a year on Qixi on a bridge which connected heaven and earth. Nowadays young women across the state prepare fruits to offer to Zhinu in the hope of making a good match on the seventh day of the seventh month. It is also a modern custom for the couple to gift each other matching t-shirts so they can go out and declare their love publicly. The celebration itself is solely for singles and once a couple has married they are only permitted to celebrate one final time to thank Zhinu and Niulang for bringing them together.
Mumbai – Holi Festival
Holi Festival is well known throughout the world as the festival of colour, but it has a deep tradition of love in India. Traditionally the festival marked the end of winter and beginning of spring and was named after Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, whose skin was dark blue and when he worried his love, Radha, would not accept him he threw powder in her face to change her colour too.
Historically the powders which were thrown were originally turmeric which although is good for cooking is notorious for staining the skin. Nowadays synthetic powders have been produced; red for love, blue for Lord Krishna, yellow for turmeric and green for spring. The festival encourages Indians of all ages to venture into the streets, smear paint and dance under the water spray to hopefully find a partner.