Valentine’s Day traditions: how the day of love is celebrated in Scotland and around the world

Valentine’s Day may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the occasion has long been celebrated all across the world.

February 14 is dedicated to celebrating love and relationships, and is often marked by giving gifts and spending quality time with your nearest and dearest.

How did Valentine’s Day originate?

First celebrated in the year 496, Valentine’s Day is thought to have originated from a Roman festival called Lupercalia, which was held in the middle of February at the start of their springtime.

How will you be celebrating Valentine's Day? (Photo: Shutterstock)How will you be celebrating Valentine's Day? (Photo: Shutterstock)
How will you be celebrating Valentine's Day? (Photo: Shutterstock)
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It is believed that as part of the celebrations, boys and girls each drew names from a box and would be boyfriend and girlfriend during the festival - and sometimes get married.

Over time, the church later wanted to turn the festival into a Christian celebration and decided to use it as a day to also remember St Valentine.

As time went on, St Valentine’s name began to be used by people to express their feelings to the ones they loved - later becoming known as Valentine’s Day.

How is it celebrated in Scotland?

Children often get involved in Valentines Day celebrations in Scotland by making cards at school (Photo: Shutterstock)Children often get involved in Valentines Day celebrations in Scotland by making cards at school (Photo: Shutterstock)
Children often get involved in Valentines Day celebrations in Scotland by making cards at school (Photo: Shutterstock)

Scots typically celebrate Valentine’s Day traditionally, with the exchange of greeting cards, love messages, and gifts.

These cards are known as ‘Valentines’ in Scotland, and are often designed in the shape of a heart and are red in colour. It is believed that these cards reflect trust and love.

Children often get involved in Valentine’s Day celebrations too, making cards at schools and filling them with rhymes and poems.

Another popular tradition in Scotland is searching for a Valentine's date.

According to Scottish custom, the first man or woman encountered on February 14 becomes his or her Valentine, and the day is celebrated with them.

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But celebrations don’t just involve gifts and dates. An old popular Valentine’s Day game from the past in Scotland sees an equal number of men and women write their names on a piece of paper, which is then folded and placed into a hat.

There are two hats involved in the fame - one for men and one women.

The first piece of paper is drawn from the men’s hat by a woman, and the man she selects is then supposed to stay with her as her valentine for the duration of the day.

Each piece of paper is drawn until every man and woman is coupled up. Later, gifts and a Valentine’s Day greetings are exchanged, and the game has sometimes led couples to marriage.

In medieval times, Scots would traditionally present the object of their affections with a Luckenbooth brooch, which consisted of entwined hearts topped with a crown and takes its name from ‘Locking Booths’ – the small shops along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile that jewellery and trinkets.

According to legend, they were first given as a symbol of devotion given by Mary Queen of Scots to Lord Darnley.

How is it celebrated around the world?

Exchanging cards and gifts - often flowers or chocolates - as well as enjoying a romantic date with your loved one, is customary on Valentine’s Day here in the UK.

But around the world, February 14 is marked in different and more unusual ways.

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If you are keen to do something new to celebrate the occasion this year, here are some traditions from across the globe that may spark some inspiration.


Valentine’s Day is celebrated on two different dates in Japan , with females presenting gifts to their loved ones on February 14, and men later returning the favour on the White Day, which is celebrated a month later on March 14.

Women typically give the gift of one of two types of chocolate. One is called giri-choco, which is bought for friends, bosses, colleagues, or close male friends, while boyfriends and husbands are given hon-mei, which is usually prepared by the women themselves.


February 14 is associated with agriculture in Slovenia, and is considered the beginning of spring. It is often the day when workers head back to the fields, with many proposals occuring there.


The colour red will often be seen all across the country as a symbol of love and passion on Valentine’s Day, with bouquets of roses usually being an essential part of celebrations.

Children also often present heart-shaped gifts with messages of love to their parents, teachers and classmates, and baskets of chocolates and sweets are also traditionally given.


Not content with celebrating love for just one day, Argentinians devote an entire week to the festival of love in July, known as ‘sweetness week’.

Held between 13 and 20 July, lovers exchange kisses for sweets, with the week of celebrations coming to a close with a friendship day as well.

South Korea

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South Koreans can’t get enough of the romance and celebrate the day of love on the 14th day every month of the year.

Meanwhile, those who are single celebrate ‘the black day’ in April, by eating black noodles.


One traditional Valentine’s event in France was the loterie d’amour, in which hopeful singles would line up in houses facing each other and take turns calling through the windows until they were paired up.

The women left on their own then gathered afterwards for a bonfire ceremoniously burning images of the men who rejected them.

South Africa

While many will celebrate the day with chocolates, flowers and romantic dinners, others opt for a more direct approach with some women pinning the name of their love on their sleeve for the day.