Valentine’s around the world
This festive holiday has grown on us. Hearts dangle from street lamps, market aisles, school classroom windows. Stashes of “be mine” chocolates are up for grabs in giant glass bowls.
But is it the same all around the world? Is it as big and celebrated in other countries?
Just when and where it started is unclear. It’s said that Valentine was a priest who served during the 3rd century in Rome. Wars and battles were frequent. And after some careful watching, emperor Claudius II came to the conclusion that single men made better soldiers than those with families and wives. So he outlawed marriage for young soldiers.
Valentine’s took on the task and secretly wed young couples during wartime. He was, of course, discovered and put to death.
But that’s just one story. Other tales suggest that Saint Valentine may have been killed while helping the Christians escape harsh Roman prison. And in some countries, the Valentine’s priest is altogether forgotten. In Verona, Romeo and Julliet stole the show with a four-day festival that celebrates with heart-shaped lanterns and a letter-writing contest to Juliet.
Or take Spain, who celebrates Saint Jordi’s Day instead, on April 23rd. This patron killed a dragon to save a princess. As a grand gesture, he plucked a red rose that sprouted on the spot where the dragon’s blood spilled. Which explains why women receive flowers on that day.
Still, it is believed that the first-ever Valentine’s Day card was sent in France. The Duke of Orleans, helplessly locked up in prison in the 15th century in a French village called “Valentine”, sent his wife love letters.
But, go yet a little further from home, and you’ll find the Qixi Festival on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Valentine’s isn’t mentioned in any way here. Instead, the Chinese legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu comes to mind.
Supernatural fairy, Zhi Nu, travels to Earth to marry her love, Niu Lang, a simple yet kind farmer. This is unacceptable to the God of Heaven, and so she is forced back. Niu Lang, heartbroken, begins an odyssey up to the skies in search of his love. The gods create a river to stop him, and decide they will be allowed to reunite but only on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
So as we zoom in, we notice our motifs are not the same everywhere. And there’s much to be localized.
Asides from different origins and founding stories, which always unfold and transform with each passing year, there are customs and traditions. No matter when and where it started, it will have found a different modern day expression. We need to take this into account. Not only do we localize in campaigns who the main characters are, but we may completely flunk the test if we create a multimedia campaign on a standard 14th of february.
Argentinians, for example, don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day in February. Rather, they go for “the week of sweetness” in July. If you want to create marketing material, and position yourself in the chocolate and candy markets, then you’ll want to do it in July.
In South Korea though, if you’re up for it, there is a celebration every 14th of each month. “The day of roses” in May, “The day of kisses” in June, “the black day” in April, for single people who don’t receive gifts on other dates. Friends will meet up and eat jajangmyeon (black noodles) and wish each other luck in the coming year. But most interesting, same as in Japan, on Valentine’s day only women give men chocolate. And men will reciprocate this gift on White Day, the next month.
The market opportunities there are endless. We only need to pick the right elements in our digital campaign material. Or the products we choose to export and ally ourselves with in other countries.
So, which industries boom during this time of the year?
We’ve noticed that even though patterns vary, chocolate is a big player during Valentines almost anywhere. The week of sweetness, white day… In Ghana, Valentine’s is celebrated as “National Chocolate Day” (a step that the Ghana government took in 2007 to increase tourism in the country, since they are one of the largest cocoa-producing countries).
And chocolate comes accompanied by music events, heart shaped cards, flowers, restaurants with themed menus for the special day.
But there are other little niches useful for sales and content. In Bulgaria, it is the “day of winemakers”, so portraying (and selling) local wine is an A-Okey idea. Same as selling padlocks in Seville or France, where couples fasten padlocks from the railing of important bridges. And throw the key into the river. It is a symbol of love lasting forever, and so the “love padlock” tradition is now a worldwide phenomenon.
If you’re in the swine industry though, you might want to take a peek at what Germany is doing. There, swine-themed gifts are meant to bring good luck, as well as lust. It can go anywhere from chocolate and cakes to stuffed animals as long as it contains the image of a pig.
Though if you target Belgorod, Russia, you might want to contemplate the fact that they banned the holiday because of it’s highly commercial nature that doesn’t really help anyone and symbolizes only the influence of Western culture.
What we are trying to say is that cultural diversity is amazing. Something to look out for. And also something that you can use in your favour.
Take it into account when writing a work email, creating publicity on social media, exploring for opportunities to expand in other places or simply small talking in an elevator. And if you need help localizing, translating, adapting to new languages, know that you can count on us. Our language professionals can spread the love and make sure everybody gets it.
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