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Love This: Valentine's Traditions

Posted 01.02.16  - Culture

Some cynics might claim Valentine's Day is a marketing ploy dreamed up by an unholy alliance of greeting card manufacturers, florists and confectioners, but they would be wrong.

It is much older than that - many believe its roots date back to ancient Rome, while at the British Library the oldest surviving Valentine's note is dated February 1477 (admittedly the flowers and sweets came later). But cynics be blowed, what's wrong with having a day where people take time to declare their affection?

While in the western world women are the traditional recipients of gifts, in Japan it's the men who get chocolates - romantic interests receive honmei-choco (expensive or even homemade), whereas bosses, colleagues and friends get the less-premium giri-choco.

In Japan it's the men who get chocolates - romantic interests receive honmei-choco (expensive or even homemade), whereas colleagues and friends get the less-premium giri-choco.

In Spain, although cards and flowers are still the norm for 14th February, in the Catalan northeast of the country, Valentine's Day plays second fiddle to El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) and El dia del Libre (The Day of the Book), both taking place on 23rd April, when the lady gets the flowers, he the gentleman gets the book. If he is more a fan of big-screen adaptations of literary legends, T&A's Dr No cotton shirt or the Die Another Day Silk Tie.

In Slovenia, Valentine's Day is considered the start of the mating season - for birds at least - and the beginning of going out to work in the fields (the declaration of love between humans is delayed until 12th March, St Gregory's Day). I would suggest an appropriate gift for a day saluting the great outdoors and the arrival of spring would be a warming T&A cashmere scarf, as there's still likely to be a chill in the air.

Although a popular date for engagements, Valentine's Day in Finland is more of a celebration of friendship, often marked by a card and small gift to valued chums. For a friend who needs reminding, a bright leather business card holder from T&A is an appreciative present idea.

Estonia has a similar tradition on the 14th with Sōbrapäev, or Friends' Day, when you show your appreciation for people who aren't your lover with cards and gifts. Mexico follows suit with El Día del Amor y la Amistad - the day of love and friendship. It is often associated with balloon vendors, who sell heart-shaped helium balloons with declarations of devotion on them (although I'd settle for the new Balloon-Fest silk ties that T&A has introduced).

Valentine's Day gifting in Germany usually sticks to the traditional flowers-and-chocolates options but, if you really want to do something special, it could involve a pig. Or, at least, a representation of a pig, which stands for good luck and, some say, lust. Now, I'm stumped on that one - does anyone know where I can get a chocolate pig?

Rob Ryan - Journalist and author of several historical novels

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