cover image

Illustration by Darya Sukhova

Valentine's Day: History and Traditions Around the World

Roses are red in the Convenience Store. The teddy bears on the shelves are waiting for couples, and the amount of heart-shaped sweets is only second to the Halloween treats. It is February 14 – that is, Valentine’s Day is here.

Feb 16, 2019

For many students at NYU Abu Dhabi, Valentine’s Day is a familiar celebration. Confessing love, sending heartfelt letters along with flowers and sweets to friends and crushes – all of this has long been practiced in many countries. However, given the international nature of NYUAD it is important to recognize that not everyone celebrates Feb 14. in the same way; some cultures do not celebrate Valentine’s day at all.
What does Valentine’s Day mean for students on campus who don’t come from countries with a mass-culture surrounding the holiday back home? Students on campus have different perspectives on this holiday.
In east Asia, celebrating Valentine’s Day came from the western influence. Shinyi Kang, Class of 2022, from Korea mentioned that “Valentine’s Day in Korea is mostly Western tradition” and giving chocolates only to your beloved ones was common until quite recently. In modern day Korea, people exchange chocolates on Valentine’s day not only with their significant others, but with people who they want to thank — friends, family and other relatives.”
Countries across Latin America also have different traditions of the celebration. According to Juan Pablo Rossi, Class of 2021, who is from Argentina and Peru, Valentine’s Day has a different meaning in different nations. In Argentina, for example, the day is already an established tradition of celebration, while in Peru it is a relatively new concept. “In the last five years, the celebration has become huge — with more couples participating in it this year,” remarked Rossi.
In Eastern Europe, however, it seems like the Valentine’s Day traditions are not as strong as in some other countries. Sofija Jancheska, Class of 2022, from North Macedonia, says that “Valentine’s Day is not too popular in our country” and is simply not as widely celebrated as in the west. Mirela Minkova, Class of 2022, from Bulgaria adds that “both in Bulgaria and Macedonia, there is different kind of celebration for Feb.14.” That is — Day of St. Trifon Zarezan, an ancient holiday with roots in Pagan tradition. This ancient tradition later mixed with the Orthodox faith in the Balkan region, and resulted in a holiday dedicated to winemakers and wine in general. On that day people traditionally feast and drink wine, and it seems like this tradition in the Balkans is much stronger than Valentine’s Day.
In the Republic of Georgia, the attitude toward Valentine’s Day is somewhat similar to the rest of South-Eastern Europe. Feb. 14 has recently become a day to celebrate, and even today, the majority of Georgians do not do anything special on this day, but that’s not to say that there is no celebration of love.
In 1994, the tradition of Georgia’s own Day of Love on April 15 was established in Rustaveli Theatre in Tbilisi. “Let this day become an awakening of our youth, as it’s impossible to build a country without Love” — announced a voice from the stage. Since then, April 15. has taken the role of Valentine’s Day traditions, and in modern Georgia it is understood as love not only towards your significant other, but to love in the broader sense of the word. Some people celebrate both days, enjoying the festivities twice a year.
At the end of the day, all cultures understand the term “love” in their own unique way. Nevertheless, the emotion of attraction connects us across all cultures, and it doesn't really matter whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not — the idea behind the holiday goes beyond buying flowers and teddy bears. Perhaps, it is more important to try and understand what “love” means a little more broadly than what we’re used to.
Davit Jintcharadze is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
gazelle logo