December marks the most popular month to get engaged, and soon enough all of our news feeds will be flooded with sparkles, smiles and save-the-dates. Perhaps it’s all the togetherness that convinces those future spouses to get down on one knee. Maybe they want to literally “ring” in the New Year. Either way, love is most definitely in the air this month, and an excuse to celebrate its many facets is welcomed. Whether you’re dancing to “Single Ladies”, celebrating an anniversary or planning your special day, let’s take a look at the different love traditions from around the world.
Hong Kong: Lantern Festival
On the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations, couples spend time together on what’s informally known as ‘Chinese Valentine’s Day’, celebrated on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. While its origins are disputed, most believe that matchmaking was once an important aspect. Today the Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year, but it’s still embraced as a day of love as many couples light red lanterns before letting them drift into the sky.
Brazil: Dia dos Namorados
Also known as Lover’s Day, this Brazilian holiday is celebrated the same way as Valentine’s Day, just on a different date. It’s supposedly observed on June 12 since it falls on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day, the patron saint of marriage. Other theories suggest that it’s celebrated in June so as not to overlap with Carnival – although that didn’t stop couples from celebrating the event when it overlapped with last year’s World Cup. I was there, and trust me, love was in the air!
Sweden: Rings for All
When there’s no one you’d rather spend your life with, couples commemorate their love with rings. The traditional Swedish custom is to purchase gold bands as engagement rings for both women and men, only to buy a diamond ring for the bride on the wedding day. Now we’re seeing more and more Swedish women receiving a diamond engagement ring while the man gets a gold engagement band. Another fun wedding tradition in Sweden goes that if the bride leave the room for any reason during dinner, all the women line up to kiss the groom as he sits there all by his lonesome, and vice versa. Nobody should ever be alone on their wedding day!
Finland: Friend’s Day
Every love story is different. Some couples fall in love at first sight; other couples start as friends as their romance develops over time. Friend’s Day, or Ystävänpäivä in Finnish, is also observed on February 14, but with a twist. Back in the ’80s the country decided to change the nature of the holiday to be more inclusive, and so Friend’s Day was born. It’s still customary to give cards, candy, and flowers – let the warm fuzzies commence!
Paris, France: Love Locks
The Pont des Arts bridge is known for couples attaching brass locks to proclaim their love to one another…until June 1st of this year, that is. Love locks arrived in Paris in 2008, and after hundreds of thousands of couples “locked” their love for one another, they’d throw away the key into the Seine River. Those keys are now considered litter, and the bridge can no longer withstand the weight. The amorous custom continues in places such as Italy, London, Budapest, Berlin, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Charles Bridge in Prague.
Worldwide (mostly): New Years Kiss
The tradition to share a smooch at midnight has been around for some time, allegedly rooted in German and English folklore. Kiss someone at midnight and you’ll have luck in love throughout the following year. While steeped in years of tradition, the NYE kiss seems to have become more of an arbitrary act that no longer holds any real significance, other than being a simple show of love, an expression of well wishes, or just a fun thing to do with your partner (or the random person lucky enough to be standing next to you when the countdown begins).
Wales: Love Spoons
Giving a whole new meaning to the term ‘spooning,” this cute Welsh tradition requires the groom to present his lover with a meticulously carved wooden spoon, a gesture that he will always feed and provide for her. If the affections are not mutual, the spoon is returned, but if the spooning is successful, the sweetheart must wear it around her neck for a number of days. Love spoons are given for many special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, births, engagements, christenings, house warming and Valentines Day.
Africa: Henna Tattoos
Henna designs are adorned to bride’s hands and feet before her wedding ceremony. They signify the bride’s beauty, womanhood and worth, so she boasts the most elaborate designs. For thousands of years, the art of henna (called mehndi in Hindi & Urdu) has been practiced in India, Pakistan, Africa, and the Middle East.
Mexico: Money Dance
The Money Dance commences in Mexico when male guests pay to dance with the bride. Payments may be put into a special bag or pinned to the bride or groom’s jacket. The money is then expected to be used by the newlyweds for their honeymoon or new home together.
India: Dance Off
Being in love is an amazing thing. In New Delhi, it means being able to watch your friends shake it off at your wedding. If you made the cut and were formally asked into the wedding party, you better get to learning some bollywood dances as it’s tradition for the couple’s friends to perform at the wedding!
China: Wardrobe Changes
In China, brides typically walk down the aisle in a slim-fitting, embroidered dress, also known as a qipao. For the reception, they change into a more Cinderella-esque dress with Western flare. The bridal fashion show doesn’t end there! To cap the night, Chinese brides often make a final change into a cocktail dress during the reception. Some brides even go a step further with a fourth dress – now that’s a work out.
Italy: Vow Renewals
Vow renewals apparently emerged in Italy, although it has become popular in the U.S. since around the 1950’s. Designed for couples to recommit their promises to one another, vow renewals can be celebrated many different ways. For some, it’s a chance to celebrate the wedding a couple never had. Others may have surpassed a difficult point in their relationship. Some duos may be celebrating a milestone anniversary. Many people go all out, planning a big party for friends and family as they exchange new rings with one another.
USA: Diamonds Are Forever
The traditional 60th wedding anniversary gift in the U.S. are diamonds. If you’ve made it last this long, you deserve more than one in my book! Why not two? The new Ever Us ring incorporates two diamonds side by side, symbolizing the fact that two people are simultaneously each other’s best friend and true love. I believe the most successful long-term relationships are a strong combination of both. Let’s just hope the younger generations can mirror the baby-boomers’ values!