A celebration of Valentine’s Day from around the world

Chrissy Suttles

The celebration of Valentine’s Day has drastically evolved throughout the decades. From the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which included sacrificing animals and voluntarily beating women to preserve fertility, to the bloody execution of two men named Valentine during the 3rd Century A.D., the holiday was in desperate need of some positive publicity. Most scholars agree the festival was sentimentalized in Europe during the Middle Ages by romantic writers such as Shakespeare.

Now, it’s a day of love and appreciation throughout the world. From North Africa to North America, Feb. 14 is a source of cultural unity, yet the way each country celebrates is uniquely its own.

In El Salvador,  El Dia de la Amistad, or “the Day of Friendship,” is celebrated in place of Valentine’s Day. Rather than exclusively celebrating romantic love, many in this country focus on the family, friends and co-workers who give their lives meaning.

According to Jazmin Evans, president of the African Student Association, most African countries celebrate the holiday as a day of love and giving thanks, during which quality trumps quantity and sentimental gifts are encouraged.

Graduate student Rumbidzia Mupinga moved from Zimbabwe when she was five years old, but remains connected to her heritage.

“In Zimbabwe, people tend to receive and give cards more than actual gifts,” she said.  “It isn’t solely around the concept of women … It’s more card-giving and going out to eat. I love giving cards, especially to friends and family. It serves as a more personable note to express my love and care than a box of chocolate or flowers.”

Bitrus Audu, senior business administration and human resource management major, lived in Nigeria for 19 years. In Nigeria and most West African nations, Valentine’s Day is a “reunion and celebration with loved ones, family, friends, relatives and any significant others,” he said. He’s looking forward to honoring that tradition.

“My plans are basically to spend time with friends and Skype or FaceTime with family members and loved ones,” he said.

In Japan, unlike Western traditions,  women typically present gifts and affection to their male counterparts. Men are expected to return these gifts on March 14, colloquially known as “White Day.”

Senior biology major Hayato Suzuki moved from rural Japan four years ago. He said he looks forward to Valentine’s Day each year because it reminds him of home.

“America celebrates a lot like Japan [does],” he said. “Gifts, kindness … I’m looking forward to spending the day with my friends, and I’ve sent letters to my family back home telling them how much I miss them and am looking forward to seeing them. The only difference is men and women both share gifts instead of just women.”

While many students expressed their opposition to a holiday they say has imposed commercialization on the majority of the world, it’s clear that for some international students at Kent State, it serves as a temporary unification in a sometimes isolating environment.

Contact Chrissy Suttles at [email protected].