Will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?

Where did Valentine’s Day come from? How do other countries celebrate?

No doubt many Kiwis are planning something special for this year’s Valentine’s Day. But if you’re bored of the usual flowers and chocolate and not sure what to do, here are some other ways to make VDay special for your significant other.

Shared experience

Research shows people feel more loving about their significant other when they remember shared fun times, rather than remembering gifts they’ve received. Check out RedBalloon.co.nz for unlimited experience gift vouchers and experience ideas. Alternatively it doesn’t have to cost much. A walk on the beach followed by a picnic dinner on the sand is free.

Venn diagram of love

John Green fan, anyone? This “You, Me, Us” Venn diagram is adorable, and you could make your own. It’s probably easier than writing a ‘gaekkebrev’, and it would make a lovely handmade card or a framed picture for the wall.

Fill with love mug

This heat-sensitive mug from ThinkGeek is a gamer’s top gift. The mug’s pixel heart – which represents your health in a game – lights up as you pour in hot coffee.

Beer jelly

For the men in our lives, you can’t go past beer jelly from Naturally Italian for putting a smile on their dial. If you don’t want to fork out for postage, you can make your own using this recipe.

From top to bottom

Not everyone will appreciate this Valentine’s Day best-seller from Just Paper Roses, but this roll of printed toilet paper that declares “I love you from top to bottom” is a hilarious gift for a guy with a good sense of humour.

“I’m a keeper” tee

Rather than wearing the same colour clothing (which is a Vietnamese tradition), you could buy your partner clothing. The perfect gift for any Harry Potter fan, this T-shirt from Busted Tees declares that your partner is “A Keeper” – in more ways than one. Other lovely ideas from Threadless include “You are my universe” or “Love Cats“.

Message of love

Similar to the hand-crafted Welsh love spoon, a wood carving like this cursive “You are beautiful” deco says far more than a hastily-scrawled card. Carved word decorations (e.g. “LAUGH”, “HOME”) have been popular for nearly a decade now, but this one would say something special every day.

Long-distance gift ideas

For soldiers fighting away from home, the best place for “missing you” love gifts is BoldLoft. Their adorable pillowcase collection helps partners separated by distance feel closer together on a lonely night.

Bonus tip from CANSTAR

Make sure your transaction account is up to scratch before you start buying Valentine’s Day gifts online with your debit card. You can compare transaction accounts here.

Compare Everyday Transaction Accounts

How did Valentine’s Day start?

What’s the real story behind the history of Valentine’s Day?

The most well-known story about St Valentine is that Emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage for young men because single men made better soldiers, but Valentine continued to perform Christian marriages in secret. The Emperor had him put to death for disobeying his decree.

While he was in prison for marrying young people, he began helping persecuted Christians escape the Roman prison where they were being tortured. Valentine prayed over the blind daughter of the jailor, Asterius, and she was healed, so he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine”.

People loved the story of a priest who gave everything to fight injustice. So at the end of the 5th century, the Catholic church placed St Valentine’s Feast Day in the middle of February to replace Lupercalia, an earlier pagan festival for the Roman gods of fertility and agriculture.

The French claim to have written the first Valentine’s Day card. In 1415, Charles, Duke of Orleans sent love letters to his wife from his cell in the Tower of London. One of the poems he sent her can be seen in the manuscript collection at the British Library in London.

How do people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day?

  • Denmark and Norway: Men celebrate by writing an anonymous ‘gaekkebrev’ (a funny, rhyming poem) to their woman of choice, leaving a row of dots instead of signing their name. If she guesses correctly who it was, he owes her an Easter egg on Easter Sunday. If she can’t guess, she owes him an Easter egg.
  • Slovenia: This time of year is usually when the ground thaws after winter and plants and flowers begin to revive. Farmers return to work in their vineyards and fields on Valentine’s Day, and everyone else has a tradition of walking barefoot on the frozen ground. Celebrations of love happen later, on St Vincent’s Day on February 22 and St Gregory’s Day on March 12, and finally on St Anthony’s Day (the patron saint of love) on June 13.
  • Japan and Korea: Japanese and Korean people celebrate two Valentine’s Days – because one is not enough. On February 14, girls give chocolate to the guys (usually handmade!), and then on March 14 it is “White Day”, and guys give white chocolate to gals. Koreans also celebrate “Black Day” on April 14, when single people gather to eat “jajangmyeon” noodles with black bean sauce to symbolise either happy independence or mourning.
  • The Philippines: Mass weddings see hundreds of couples gather in a public place to be married at the same time. In 2013, 4,000 couples got married on February 14.
  • Wales: The Welsh celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day (patron saint of lovers) on January 25, after the 5th century princess, Dwynwen, who was unable to marry her beloved and prayed for other lovers to find more happiness than she did. In an old tradition that has continued in modern times, Welsh men give their ladies spoons that bear symbolic designs about a man’s heart and his hard-working nature. These were once carved from wood and given instead of engagement rings.
  • Ghana: To promote Ghana being one of the world’s largest chocolate exporters, their tourism ministry introduced VDay as “National Chocolate Day” in 2007. Many restaurants make their menus “chocolate items only” on this day.
  • Latin America: In Latin American countries, love means more than just romantic love, and family and friends gather to celebrate together. In the Dominican Republic they play a Secret Santa-style gift giving game called ‘Angelito’, while in El Salvador the game is called ‘Amigo Secreto’ (Secret Friend). Guatemala features a festive Senior Citizen’s Parade.
  • Baltic Region: In Estonia and Finland, VDay is called “Friend’s Day” so that single people don’t feel left out. But if single people do feel like finding their next partner, they can take a ride on the Estonian “love bus”, a city loop bus that encourages mingling and conversation.
  • China: Chinese people celebrate the Qixi Festival (“Night of Seven”) in early August on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, when girls will pray to find good husbands. This festival celebrates the tragic love legend of Zhinu and her mortal husband Niulang, two stars separated by the Milky Way. The stars, Vega and her western counterpart, reunite once a year on Qixi.
  • Germany: In Germany, as well as the usual chocolates and flowers, pig-themed presents are popular. The pig represents luck and lust.
  • Vietnam: Couples wear the same colour of clothes.

Some countries such as India, Nepal and Bangladesh restrict “the day of love” to adults only, to prevent children and high school students from being distracted from their studies by crushes. Saudi Arabia is the only country we know of that has banned Valentine’s Day outright since 2008. Florists and gift shops are not permitted to sell or display anything coloured red on this day.

So if you’re looking for something more interesting than chocolates or flowers, why not write your beloved a ‘gaekkebrev’ or take them for a barefoot walk, or hold a Friend’s Day Secret Santa party?

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