Valentine’s Day Translated: Customs Around the World

I think it’s time to take a break from chatting about website translation, localization, and the like, don’t you? (Don’t worry, we’ll get back to it tomorrow.) It’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m up for a lil’ fun.

Elizabeth already shared the Say It With Love cards (which you’ve sent to everyone you know, right?). Anyhow, inspired by all the love and romance, I thought I’d dig into how other countries celebrate Valentine’s Day, and let me tell you, after reading about Catalonia’s El dia la Rosa or Japan’s giri-choco, the American Valentine’s Day looks sort of boring. Maybe I’ll adopt one of these traditions instead: 


February 14th in Japan is chocolate-filled. But if you’re imagining Japanese men running out to the store to get chocolate for their sweethearts, you’re way off base. In Japan, women gift men with chocolate. Husbands and boyfriends receive honmei choco (either high-end chocolates or affectionately handmade chocolates) while male coworkers or friends receive giri choco(obligation chocolates). Women also gift tomo choco to their females friends, but that’s a newer tradition. Men return the favor on March 14th, White Day, with chocolate (in white boxes) or other gifts.


Ginger lovers are in luck in Germany. A typical Valentine’s Day gift (as well as other holidays) is lebkuchenherzen, which are heart-shaped ginger cookies with lovey-dovey sayings spelled out in frosting.

Pigs are apparently another Valentine’s Day tradition in Germany (though this hasn’t been confirmed, so if you know it’s true, shoot me a tweet). Supposedly, pigs are symbols of luck and lust in Germany, and adorn traditional Valentine’s Day gifts like greeting cards.


Some love holidays are even better than Valentine’s Day, I think. Like April 23rd in Catalonia, known as El dia la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book). On this day, it’s customary for men to give women roses, and for women to give men books.


Dia dos Namorados (Valentine’s Day) in Brazil is celebrated on June 12, the day before Saint Anthony’s Day, the patron saint of marriage. Probably a good idea as February 14th can be too close to Carnival.


Even though it’s known as Chinese Valentine’s Day, the Qixi Festival doesn’t carry the Western traditions of gifting chocolates and flowers. This lovers’ festival is focused on marital love, with single women praying for a good husband and married couples praying for a happy life together. The “Chinese Valentine’s Day” is also a misnomer; Valentine’s Day is celebrated in China (with those familiar Western traditions).


Baci (“kisses”) are a popular Valentine’s Day gift in Italy. Each chocolate & hazelnut treat is wrapped in a love note translated into a few languages. (The ones we’ve been eating in the Smartling office are translated into five languages: Italian, English, Spanish, French, and German).


Valentine’s Day in Korea is celebrated like it is in Japan. Women gift men on Valentine’s Day. Men gift women on White Day. But Korea takes it one step farther with Black Day on April 14th, a a day when single folk get together to eat jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce) and celebrate being single.

If you know of any other Valentine’s Day customs around the world, send me a note on Twitter! Also, tell us which custom you’d like to adopt!

About Team Smartling

Smartling is a software company with the mission to make the world’s content multilingual.