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When Working Abroad Valentine’s Day Is Global

So where did the world get this holiday named Valentine’s Day? Most sources say it’s a day named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century but has origins in the Roman holiday Lupercalia. The roots of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.

The problem as I see it is in the lottery.

GeoVisions has working abroad programs in 28 countries this Valentine's Day.

I chose five of those countries where we send volunteers and teachers abroad and looked into how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in those places.

Brits celebrate Valentine’s Day with buns baked with caraway seeds and plums. They have the tradition of paying tribute to St. Valentine by writing romantic verses, lyrics and sonnets, besides exchanging gifts. Even children celebrate the occasion. They sing their favorite love songs and people give them candies, toys etc in return.

It doesn’t matter if you consider Paris, “The city of light” or “The city of love,” it’s practically the world capital of Valentine's Day. Lovers and other strangers arrive from around the globe for the special day. On Valentine's Day, lovers in France exchange letters and cards, a world-wide tradition that claims its origins in France! History says that the Duke of Orleans, Charles, wrote the first Valentine’s card, because he signed his poem as “Your Valentine”.

Valentine’s Day in Germany is popular, but is not especially commercial as in other parts of the world. Lovers will exchange not only chocolates, flowers, and heart shaped gifts, but a special “something else” for this celebration: a pig! The pig represents luck and lust, and can be given in picture form, as a miniature statue, in chocolate or however one sees fit. Also, Germans prepare big ginger cookies in heart shapes which contain romantic phrases and messages like “Ich liebe dich” (I love you).

Of course in Italy, the "Day of Love" is celebrated in classic style with a spring Festival! On Valentine’s Day couples get together to enjoy music, poetry and exchange gifts like the “baci perugina,” a box of small hazelnut-filled chocolate "kisses" (baci means "kiss" in Italian). This box will be accompanied with a romantic quote. Also, according to old tradition, the first man a girl sees that day will become her husband and they would be married within a year.

The Dia dos Namorados (lit. “Lovers’ Day”) is celebrated on June 12, probably because that is the day before Saint Anthony’s day, known there as the marriage saint. The February Valentine’s Day is not celebrated at all because it falls to close to the Brazilian Carnival (that can fall anywhere from early February to early March and lasts almost a week.)

Whether you embrace Valentine’s Day or not … it has a long and storied history. The issue is if you’re working abroad how are you going to choose to celebrate it? And if you have a loved one abroad … how are you going to celebrate this fun holiday in two places at once?

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