Did you know that in Finland in the 1980s, they rebranded Valentine’s Day so no one would feel left out? They call it Ystävänpäivä, or Day of the Friends, and it’s mostly about friendship.

In the U.S., people usually think of Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday, but because I worked for so many years at a greeting card company, I know that’s not really true. More than half of all valentines and Valentine’s Day gifts sold every year are for non-romantic relationships: for parents, children, friends, and more.

 

 

On Valentine’s Day, you can give a little gift to your grandma or your grandchildren, send cards to your friends, or go to the library and hide encouraging notes in the books for strangers to find. Bake heart-shaped cookies and take them to your workplace…or to a homeless shelter, for that matter. There are lots of possibilities!

No matter how you celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’s not the only holiday devoted to romance, friendship, and love in general around the world. Here are some other holidays when people let each other know just how much they mean!

 

Beyond Valentine's Day: Holidays About Love and Friendship Around the World #holidays about romance #holidays about friendship around the world

 

Feb. 23rd: Defender of the Fatherland Day (or Men’s Day)

In Russia, this started out as a way to honor soldiers, but now it’s basically a time to show appreciation to all the important men in one’s life. It sounds like Father’s Day, but for all guys, which seems like a great idea to me.

 

March 8: International Women’s Day

As an American, I mostly think of this as a day when people make political statements. But in Russia, it’s a springtime holiday when people give cards, flowers, and gifts to the most special women in their lives— mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters, daughters, and close friends. It sounds lovely.

 

March 14: White Day

South Korea, Japan, and I believe some other East Asian countries celebrate White Day. Apparently, on Valentine’s Day, women give men chocolate. On White Day, men reciprocate, giving women candy and sometimes gifts. The color white may be used for the packaging or for the gift itself—white chocolate and marshmallows seem to be popular.

South Korea has a romantic-themed holiday on the 14th of every month, which is pretty amazing! (Okay, “Black Day” is a day to mourn singlehood, though maybe there are a few people who are really celebrating it.)

 

April 23: San Jordi Day

Beyond Valentine's Day: Holidays About Love and Friendship Around the World #holidays about romance #holidays about friendship around the world

 

I just found out about a festival I need to attend in my lifetime. In Barcelona they celebrate the patron saint of Catalonia, with a romantic book and flower festival. Women give books to men, and men give roses to women. (I assume same-sex couples interpret all these gender-based traditions however they like.) Personally, I’d rather get the book! But I love roses, too!

 

May 1: May Day 

In early Gaelic tradition, this day was a spring festival, and for some neopagans, Beltane has romantic significance. In the United States, it used to be traditional to leave baskets of flowers on friends’ and neighbors’ doorsteps…sometimes knocking the door or ringing the bell and then running away so the recipient didn’t know who gave them the flowers! I love the idea of surprising (and maybe confusing) neighbors with flowers.

 

July 20: Dia del Amigo

Friendship Day in Argentina isn’t an old celebration, and surprisingly enough, it began with the U.S. putting a man on the moon. (It’s a long story.) Friends get together for lunch, drinks, or dinner.

 

 

July 30: International Friendship Day

I think it’s a shame we don’t celebrate it the way the Argentinians celebrate Dia del Amigo. Maybe I can do something special this year! In the U.S., the first Sunday in August is Friendship Day, but nobody remembers that, either.

 

third Saturday in September: Dia de Amor y Amistad

“Love and Friendship Day” is a Colombian holiday. As far as I can tell, it’s like Valentine’s Day, but with more of an emphasis on friendship. People do “secret friend,” which is basically the same as “secret Santa” in the United States. I love the idea of doing that at a time when you’re not overwhelmed by other holiday activities!

 

Beyond Valentine's Day: Holidays About Love and Friendship Around the World #holidays about romance #holidays about friendship around the world

 

I am basing this all on internet research, so if you are from a country where the holiday is celebrated and I get something wrong, please tell me. I’ll update my post!

Do you know about other celebrations of love and friendship? Do you want to share your own feelings about Valentine’s Day, or tell us about your plans? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading, and I hope you know you’re loved.