It might be grey and dull outside but who cares – it’s nearly Valentine’s Day! It’s time to get doe-eyed and fall head over heels. I was listening to Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross while writing this but I’m making no apologies.
Valentine’s Day is celebrated all over the world so here are a few of my favourite international traditions, and the good news is you don’t have to be all “loved up” to enjoy them. It’s not quite store cupboard stuff, but it’s lots of quick and easy ways to make someone feel special, even if that means yourself.
So we may think we know how to celebrate Valentine’s Day here, but some places do things a little differently. In Norfolk they have the old custom of Jack Valentine, who drops a gift on the doorstep off his or her chosen recipient, then play knock and run to keep them guessing. Kids also get in on the fun, so if you think your young ones deserve a treat, why not arrange a visit from Jack Valentine for them?
The origins of this act are shrouded in mystery, but before you think it’s all hearts and flowers in East Anglia, it was said that some tricksters used to leave a huge wrapped box on the doorsteps of some singletons. The joker would hide out of view and watch as they unwrapped layer upon layer of paper to reveal a rather nasty note inside.
So, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Jack Valentine have a go at some surprise DIY gifts. Spending a bit of time making something for your beloved speaks from the heart. Have a go at chocolate truffles, peppermint creams, cookies or rocky road. Pop them in a clear glass jar, finish with a ribbon and a handwritten gift tag. Leave the treats on their doorstep or enjoy your handy-work together.
Korea and Japan
Traditionally, 14 February is time for the ladies to take charge and give sweets and chocolate to their intended lover. Then on 14 March (after what must seem like a very long wait!), the guys either rebuff or welcome their suitors’ advances. This is known as “White Day”.
But what happens if you’ve been turned down or couldn’t be bothered by all this malarkey? Well don’t you worry, you’re covered too: the rather morbidly named “Black Day” on 14 April is a chance to gather up all your single friends, go out and fill yourself with Jajang noodles, which are black in colour to represent the day).
So whatever the reason, if you’re spending Valentine’s Day alone, celebrate Black Day-style instead! Get some friends round for noodles and a natter about those annoying loved-up couples and the fact you’ve saved a load of money being single. That’s what I keep telling myself.
As you can imagine, Valentine’s Day is a big deal in the land of pasta, passion and beautiful people. Chocolate is, of course, a popular gift. Usually the preferred treat is a small hazelnut-based chocolate wrapped in a little love note.
Have a go at making your version chocolate love notes by rolling some homemade truffles in chopped nuts, crushed wafer or cocoa, then wrapping them in coloured foil and a little romantic note. Top it off with an extra layer of foil and finish it with a little twist on top.
The Cuban approach to Valentine’s Day is more of a festival for friends and family, as well as your loved one. They take the time to have a celebratory meal together as a group and enjoy the atmosphere, because everyone is seen to have passion and love for each other, as well as between couples.
The lesson to learn here is that you don’t wait for birthdays and Christmas to get family and friends together. Show your appreciation for your nearest and dearest on Valentine’s Day by hosting a party or cooking a great meal together. Cook something simple or slow-cooked that everyone can dig into and share, but most importantly doesn’t require you to spend hours in the kitchen. Enjoy the day for what it is … a celebration of love!