Valentine's day

‘Obligation chocolate?’ ‘Wooden spooning?’: 5 weird Valentine’s Day traditions around the world

Rappler Lifestyle Team
‘Obligation chocolate?’ ‘Wooden spooning?’: 5 weird Valentine’s Day traditions around the world
If you thought a money lottery was a nail-biter, wait till you've gone through a love lottery in France!

MANILA, Philippines – Love. It makes us do the silliest things – and some cases are far sillier than others. This is especially evident around Valentine’s Day, when passion, romance, and unabashed cheesiness are put on high pedestals.

It’s not all just flowers bouquets, teddy bears, and red cut-out hearts. All around the world, people have developed special traditions unique to their home country, speaking the universal language of love with a dash of local flair.

Here are five strange traditions that got our attention.

Note: Most of these traditions are, stereotypically, heterosexual in context – but we certainly hope they don’t stay that way!

Wales: The Welsh love spooning – literally

In Wales, it’s not about who’s the big spoon or the little spoon; it’s about who receives the most intricately carved wooden spoon on Valentine’s Day.

In the olden days, young men would take their time fashioning spoons for the women they loved; their carving skills signified how disciplined they could be, and how handy they were with things around the house. If a woman accepted a spoon, that usually meant they were opening themselves up to be wooed, and if the couple actually ended up marrying, the spoon itself could be used as decor for the home, much like a wedding photo!

Japan: Incredibly judgmental chocolate

In Japan, it’s the women who give men chocolate – but that’s definitely not the weird part. There are up to five kinds of chocolate they can give according to specific parameters, from honmei choco, the fancy-schmancy chocolate you give to the object of your affection, to giri choco, also known as “obligation chocolate” which, as the name suggests, is given to the men you’re not romantically inclined towards, but feel socially pressured to give a present to, such as a boss or co-worker.

Naturally, giri choco is of lesser quality. Ouch. (It’s also now a point of contention, with women pushing back on the obligation to begin with.)

There’s also tomo choco, which you give to your platonic and/or single friends; jibun choco, which you gift to yourself for a little self-love; and gyaku choco, or “reverse chocolate,” which men give to women a month later on a day dubbed White Day.

France: The most anxiety-inducing lottery ever

If you thought a money lottery was a nail-biter, wait till you’ve gone through a love lottery!

It’s a bit ironic that France, often touted as the center of romance, was the site of possibly the most cruel Valentine’s Day tradition – une loterie d’amour, or the lottery of love. The custom involved single men and women entering a set of homes that faced opposite each other, with each of them calling out the name of the person they wanted to be paired with. If a woman-man pair called each other’s names, then it was a match! However, if a woman called out a man’s name and the man did not reciprocate, then the woman would be considered single.

The single women left at the end of the day would have to build a bonfire, where they would burn images of the men who had scorned them, as well as curse them out. The tradition was so distasteful (and, in our opinion, horrifically sexist) that the French government eventually had it banned.

South Korea: White lingerie and black bean noodles

Just like in Japan, in South Korea, it’s also the women who take charge of giving gifts to men – particularly chocolate. A month later, on March 14, it’s also the men’s turn to give their ladies gifts, on the special day known as White Day, with the gifts traditionally having to be white, be it a bar of white chocolate or a white lingerie set.

But it doesn’t end there! A month after that, on April 14, it’s the singles’ turn. Called Black Day, this special day is spent by singles eating black bean noodles with their fellow single friends. Naturally, they do this all while wearing head-to-toe black. South Koreans are nothing if not thorough!

Saudi Arabia: Where Valentine’s is banned – sort of

The incredibly conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia used to be far stricter when it came to holidays; only Muslim celebrations and the National Day in September were allowed. More “western” holidays such as Valentine’s Day were not only frowned upon, but cracked down on by religious police.

Technically, the ban is still in place, but with the kingdom slowly shedding some of its conservatism – such as finally allowing women to drive – Valentine’s Day now is sort of, kind of covertly being celebrated by commercial establishments through bright red or heart-shaped decor and offering sales on perfume, make-up, and red-hued dresses – but without mentioning the term Valentine’s Day at all. –

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