How Different Cultures Say 'I Love You'
Valentine’s Day is a holiday meant to openly express our love for another person. Whether that be to family, friends, or a significant other (or even for ourselves; self-love is important too!), Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to feel even more appreciated and to make others feel appreciated in return.
Ways of expressing affection to another person differ based on cultures. Grand gestures—like chocolates, teddy bears, and candies—are the standard as far as commercial presentations go. Here are some unique ‘acts of love’ we’ve discovered from all over the world. They don’t always fall on February 14th, but they still capture the spirit of Valentine’s Day.
Germany - Pig Gifting
In Germany, pigs are seen as a source of good luck.
There’s no clear, singular source that explains why pigs are revered in this way. It may have to do with medieval traditions of pigs as consolation prizes, or that pigs are a good and filling meal for an entire family. Receiving a charm of a pig or other pig iconography is by no means an insult.
Giving pig items as gifts is more commonly associated with New Years’, but it wouldn’t be unheard of as a gift for any other occasion. The best way you can tell someone you love them is by blessing them with good luck for the future.
South Africa - Zulu Beads
Men and women who share deep connections—married or soon-to-be-wed—use Zulu beads to solidify their bonds. Zulu beads (or the Zulu love letter) represent the love language between men and women of Southern Africa. They are made by taking a long piece of string and threading beads through to form necklaces, headpieces, or other accessory items. The most common symbol used in Zulu beads is a triangle.
These beads can come in many different colors, and each color has meaning! Feelings of hope and faithfulness are connected to blue beads, while red sends messages of passion and love. If you look closely at a married couple, you could take a guess at what they might be feeling that day based on the particular color of beads they wear.
Asia - Sisters’ Meals Festival and Lantern Festival
In Southern China, the Miao people celebrate their form of Valentine’s Day in the Sisters’ Meals Festival. Miao culture tells a legend about two young lovers who—because of the rift between their families—are unable to be married to one another. The two lovers agree to meet in secret to continue their relationship. This is how the idea of the Sisters’ Meal Festival came to be.
While the tradition happens during April, the Sisters’ Meals Festival lasts for three days and includes celebrations such as dancing, wearing beautifully made costumes, to dying rice. People exchange gifts during this time as well, and each gift has a meaning. Here a few of our favorite examples:
- Chinese Parsley gifts can imply a woman wants to be married to a man.
- Gifts of cotton can mean that a woman misses the person they’re in love with.
The Lantern Festival is also another celebration for expressing affection to loved ones, although it’s done less so than previous accounts. In the Tang and Song dynasties, people inscribed ancient love poems into their lanterns before releasing them. Today, the Lantern Festival is more of a general celebration. Chinese culture considers the Lantern Festival to be the last day of the Chinese New Year. The Lantern Festival falls on February 15th.
Wales - Lovespoons
The practice of giving lovespoons comes from Welsh and Celtic origins. This tradition of carving symbols (i.e. hearts, church bells) or engraving names into wooden spoons can be dated back to the 17th Century.
When a male suitor courted a young woman, he carved a lovespoon for her as a gift. Knowing how to carve a lovespoon represented to the young woman’s father that the suitor would be able to provide for a family as a carpenter or woodworker. Today, talented carvers still craft lovespoons for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas gifts.
Japan - Boxed Lunch
There’s an old saying that “the quickest way to someone’s heart is through their stomach,” and this idiom holds true in Japan. Boxed lunches (or Bentos) are exactly as the name would imply: lunches packed neatly into boxes to be taken on-the-go. Pickled sour plums, rice, and salads are just a few meals occasionally packed into these boxed lunches.
Boxed lunches aren’t specifically a gift given on Valentine’s Day, but they are associated with expressions of love. With care and thoughtfulness, preparing a meal for someone else to take with them becomes a profound way to say ‘I love you’ without any words necessary.
Every culture has its own form of love language to the people in it, and the people outside of it when they take the time to learn. You can enrich your learning experience, too, and immerse yourself in others’ cultures by ordering a Jarvisen today! https://www.jarvisen.com/products/jarvisen-translator
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