Something odd and, honestly, quite alarming happens to Delhi come February. There is an influx of all things red — red roses, red heart-shaped balloons, couples in red pullovers and so on. As it turns out, not every country celebrates Valentine’s Day on February 14. But whatever time of year it may be celebrated, Valentine’s Day makes its presence felt all over the world. Here’s how Valentine’s Day is, or has been, celebrated in some parts of the world over the past few centuries:
1. In 18th century England, maidens would pin bay leaves (tez patta) to their pillows in hopes of dreaming about their loving future partners. [If only it were that simple!]
2. In Finland, they celebrate February 14 as Friend’s Day, not Valentine’s Day. This way nobody feels left out and can partake in the celebration instead of feeling dejected and unloved and alone.
3. In 18th century Denmark, men would create original works of art — paintings or poems. These were signed with nothing but dots — one for each letter of the man’s name — and sent anonymously to the woman of their dreams. If the woman guessed her suitor’s name correctly, she would get an Easter egg. If she got the name wrong, she’d have to buy her sad suitor an Easter egg instead.
4. In Slovenia, St. Valentine is considered the patron saint of spring. Valentine’s Day is, therefore, considered an auspicious day to start working in the fields and vineyards.
5. In Wales, they celebrate Valentine’s Day on January 25. The traditional Welsh gift on this day is an intricately carved wooden spoon, called a love-spoon.
6. Valentine’s Day in Norfolk, England, features a Santa Claus-like character called Jack Valentine who is believed to leave presents outside the doors of little children’s rooms on Valentine’s Eve.
7. In the Philippines, thousands of couples either get married or renew their vows on Valentine’s Day as an expression/reaffirmation of their love for each other.
8. In Germany, Valentine’s Day gifts tend to feature a pig, which is, oddly enough, the German symbol of lust and luck.
9. In Guatemala, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with lots of colorful pageantry. People dress up in Mayan-inspired costumes and wear feathered masks and such. There is also a senior citizen’s parade.
10. Ghana, one of the world’s largest cocoa exporters, celebrates National Chocolate Day on February 14. Special chocolate-themed menus appear in restaurants around this time and there are museum exhibits, too. [Ah well! We’ve always known this day was more about the corporations than about much else, really!]
11. In South Africa, some youngsters adhere to an old tradition called Lupercalia and pin the name of their sweetheart on their sleeve.
12. On Valentine’s Day, women in Japan and South Korea do what most straight women spend most part of their adult lives doing — pleasing their man and making him feel special. This is an oddity for them only because “normally” they’re very demure and passive. [Insert derisive snort here!]
Meanwhile here in India, every year on Valentine’s Day, couples find a cosy spot — which isn’t an easy task in a country bursting at the seams with people — to just sit and talk, perhaps hold hands, go out on a romantic date. And then, in a manner that has now become customary, self-proclaimed Guardians of Indian Culture and Tradition descend upon them with lathis
and huge vats of shoe polish and necklaces made out of shoes. These hapless lovers are then either beaten black and blue or they’re forcibly married in an impromptu wedding performed by, I’m assuming, the pundit said guardians bring with them. I say, this Valentine’s day, LGBT couples should swarm Lodhi Garden and Azad Maidan and every other spot where these “guardians” tend to descend. If we’re lucky, the next day’s headlines will read: Self-appointed moral police, blinded by righteous indignation at public displays of affection, married off 500 couples found canoodling in public places. 300 of these couples were seen celebrating with wild abandon moments after being “forcibly” married. Every last one of them gay.