What comes to your mind when thinking about Valentine’s Day, February 14? Do you imagine giving and getting chocolates and flowers, or you and your girlfriend or boyfriend celebrating with a romantic dinner at a restaurant?
Valentine’s Day has long been celebrated as a day for exchanging love messages. Many people who love one another or have a strong friendship with someone frequently exchange cards, chocolates, and small gifts on Valentine’s Day when they want to express their feelings.
International students also want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with lovers and friends. For some, it is their first Valentine’s Day. For others, their significant others can be thousands of miles away – too far a distance to travel to spend the day with them.
But despite the distance, international students celebrate Valentine’s Day in their own way.
“Girls gives boys chocolate on Valentine’s Day in Korea, “said Soung Hyun Park, a student at Santa Monica College. “I was so surprised that people in America know what the meaning of Valentine’s Day’s because we just celebrated without knowing the meaning” (the holiday is named after St. Valentine).
Many Korean students are surprised when they come to the U.S because boys usually give gifts to girls on White Day, a holiday celebrated by South Koreans, Japanese, and Taiwanese on March 14. White Day is a way for boys to repay for gifts from girls.
“I didn’t know how I prepare for my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day,” said Park. “Last year was my first Valentine’s Day. My girlfriend and I went out but I didn’t prepare anything, so she was little bit disappointed. I am thinking to prepare some flowers for this Valentine’s Day.”
Koreans, in particular, like to celebrate romantic dates. February 14, March 14, and April 14 all carry romantic significance: February 14 is Valentine’s Day; March 14 is White Day; and April 14 is Black Day. Koreans especially like Black Day: people who didn’t receive any chocolate or candy on either Valentine’s Day or White Day gets together on Black Day and eat black noodles.
Chinese students also celebrate Valentine’s Day differently and have their own Valentine’s Day.
“The Valentine’s Day in China is little bit different from the U.S.,” said Na Lu, a student at Georgetown University. “Valentine’s Day is only for lovers in China. But In the U.S., Valentine’s Day gifts’ meaning is not only a loving heart but also friendship.”
China has its own version of Valentine’s Day called the “Qixi.” It is usually at the end of July or early August, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
“Originally, there is a traditional festival for Chinese lovers, called Qixi,” said Lu. “We celebrate two Valentine’s Day in China. Especially older people celebrate Qixi more.”
Silver Fair, who studied at Northern Arizona University, said that in Italy, a couple goes out for sweet dinner and then exchange presents.
“Chocolate is not necessary for us,” Fair said. “We usually exchange presents for Valentine’s Day.”
Italians also have some old traditions. For example, there’s a myth that the first man who a girl sees on that day will become her husband. However, according to Fair, “Nobody believes this traditional myth anymore in Italy.”
People around the world have different celebrating way Valentine’s Day, but for many, it provides the opportunity to express their love and friendship, no matter the tradition and country’s culture.Jeonghyun Kim is a VOA intern for the English web desk. She is from South Korea, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Professional Studies in Journalism at Georgetown University.