A couple cooking a Valentine's Day dinner together in their kitchen

A global love affair: beyond red roses for Valentine’s Day

In January, the UK media was buzzing with reports of a potential shortage of red roses for Valentine’s Day due to new post-Brexit border checks impacting EU flower imports. This led us to ponder the evolution of Valentine’s Day, a festival traditionally associated with red roses, chocolates, and romantic dinners. In recent years, the celebration has undergone a transformation, with people exploring new and unconventional ways to express their feelings, evident in the diverse gifts exchanged and unique ways individuals choose to celebrate.


Expanding the circle of love

Valentine’s Day has evolved to encompass a broader spectrum of relationships. For example, the emergence of Galentine’s Day has gained traction. Falling each year on 13th February, Galentine’s Day is the friendship version of V-Day – a day celebrating the platonic love between women.

Notably, Galentine’s Day wasn’t created by a card company or internet marketplace for commercial reasons. Instead, it was founded by a fictional character: Leslie Knope of the popular workplace comedy Parks and Recreation, in a 2010 episode titled ‘Galentine’s Day’. Gal pals might celebrate Galantine’s by hosting a brunch, a dinner, a wine and cheese night, throwing a party, exchanging gifts, booking a spa day, and so on.

Pets are no longer exempt from Valentine’s festivities, as pet owners express their love through special treats, toys, and pet-friendly events. A UK survey last year revealed that, despite cost-cutting in other aspects of Valentine’s Day, over a quarter of pet owners (27%) planned to spoil their pets, with those doing so spending an average of £87 – that’s £15 more than the average total spend across everyone celebrating (£72). The survey showed that over a third (35%) admitted they planned to spend more on their pet than their partner! Last Valentine’s, food was the most popular gift Brits bought their pets (57%), followed by toys (44%), and clothing or accessories (29%).

Recent years have also seen a trend of parents giving Valentine’s gifts to their children, with some brands attempting to market the event as a family-oriented occasion rather than purely romantic.


Unorthodox gifts stealing the spotlight

In the past, Valentine’s Day was all about the classic duo of flowers and chocolates. However, contemporary trends have witnessed a surge in non-traditional gifts that reflect a more personalised and thoughtful approach. From custom-made artwork and DIY crafts to subscription boxes tailored to individual interests, there is now more emphasis on unique and meaningful gestures.

There is also a growing preference for experiences over material gifts, with couples opting for activities like cooking classes, spa days, and adventure sports to create lasting memories. This shift aligns with the contemporary emphasis on shared experiences in relationships.


Global perspectives on love

Valentine’s Day isn’t a one-size-fits-all celebration globally, with various countries putting their unique spin on expressing love. Here’s a glimpse:


Dia dos Namorados (Brazil) – 12th June:

A Brazilian celebration, Dia dos Namorados (Lovers Day), takes place on 12th June, featuring familiar Valentine’s traditions like romantic gifts and parties. Interestingly, the term is also used in other Portuguese-speaking countries for their Valentine’s Day.


Qixi Festival (China) – 7th day of the 7th lunar month (usually August):

China celebrates Valentine’s Day on 14th February but also honours the Qixi Festival, a traditional event centred around the romantic legend of two lovers meeting in the stars. It falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, typically in August, and proves lucrative for businesses, especially in the luxury sector.


White Day (South Korea and Japan) – 14th March:

In South Korea and Japan, Valentine’s Day traditionally involves women giving gifts to men. A month later, on White Day, men reciprocate the gesture with gifts such as white chocolate, candy, and lingerie.


Black Day (South Korea) – 14th April:

Beyond Valentine’s and White Day, some Koreans celebrate Black Day on 14th April. Geared toward singles, this day is marked by enjoying a meal of jjajangmyeon, a black bean noodle dish, creating a humorous way for unattached individuals to embrace their single status.

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For more key retail and cultural dates around the world, download Oban’s free Global Marketing Calendar 2024. To find out how Oban and its unique network of Local In-Market Experts can help accelerate your brand’s international growth, please get in touch.

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