February 14th has become synonymous with love. Valentine’s day as a celebration of love has spread around the world and while many uphold certain aspects of the holiday, like gifting chocolate and flowers, others observe another kind of holiday in the name of love with native traditions.
China has a beautiful folk tale about two star-crossed lovers called the weaver and the cowherd. The girl fell in love with the cowherd, but their love is forbidden and so they are separated. Eventually, they can meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.
This folktale is the basis for the Chinese Qixi Festival. Since the story that inspires this holiday involves a girl that weaves traditions and customs around needlework and weaving is how people celebrate it. Needlework and weaving competitions take place, people get married in mass, and Han Dynasty clothes are worn.
While Saint Valentine is most famous for the celebration of love, Wales has Saint Dwynwen as a patron of love. On the 25th of January, welsh people observe their holiday of love by either going on a pilgrimage to the Saint’s Church, which is now in ruins, or by gifting each other wooden spoons.
Dwynwen’s story inspired the holiday, where she could not marry the man she loved because she was already engaged. In the end, she did get to marry the man she loved and devoted her life to God as a result.
Love and books
In Catalonia, people celebrate love on April 23rd. Catalonians have a unique way of celebrating this occasion. Men usually gave women roses while they gave them back books.
This originated from a bookseller in 1923 who wanted to promote the holiday to remember and honor Shakespeare and Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who both died on the same date. Now the gifting of books from both partners is how people adapted to celebrate amongst themselves.
In Romania, love and spring are merged into an interesting celebration. On February 24, Romanians celebrate Dragobete, a name derived from a mythical figure. Old lady Dochia is featured in a story of the coming of spring. Dragobete was her son and he was described as a young beautiful man. He is most closely associated with the Roman equivalent God Cupid, and Greek Equivalent Eros.
Traditionally, young girls and boys celebrate Dragobete by gathering flowers and wild berries from forests. The coming of spring is most frequently linked with this holiday and many embrace this correlation.
Saint Valentine and Valentine’s Day may be one of the most famous holidays of love, but there are many other ways people choose to observe their version of it. The diversity is what makes it so beautiful in the end and having a way to rejoice in the majesty of love is well worth the chocolate, flowers, or exchanging books.