Professors in the Department of World Languages discuss love in their cultures

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With Valentine’s Day around the corner, stores across the country have been filled with giant teddy bears, boxes of chocolates and bouquets of flowers. While this has become the traditional way for the United States to convey its love, other cultures have their own celebrations.

While some cultures express love through festivals and others bring different variations of Valentine’s Day to their country, each one is unique. In the Azores Islands, Portugal, gratitude for friends and family is celebrated rather than Valentine’s Day.

Fatima Cornwall is the Spanish language coordinator and recalls celebrating Dia dos Amigos, or Dia dos Amigas when she lived in Portugal.

“This celebration goes on every Thursday through the month of February right before our Mardi Gras celebration,” Cornwall said. “The first Thursday is for the male friends, the next is for the female friends and these outings usually involved bars, restaurants or special catered events. Then come to the third Thursday, male family members get together and then the last day is for female family members, which is treated more like an at-home potluck celebration.”

In Korean culture, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since the 1980s. Yookyung Lee is a professor for Korean language studies and described how Korean culture has adapted Valentine’s Day.

“It is a little different in where the women are more likely to give men the chocolate or the candy,” Lee said. “Then, on March 14, men [are]more likely [to]give the candy to women who gave them the candy.”

As well as showing their celebration of love to one another, Feb. 14 also aligns with the ending of Korean school sessions. As a result, people will use this day to celebrate school and their teachers.

“So people also use this Valentine’s Day to express their appreciation or gratitude to their teachers or to their boss of the company,” Lee said. “It’s a day that they use to show that appreciation and gratitude that they have.”

While some cultures recently adapted variations of Valentine’s Day to celebrate love, other cultures have a deep history. Karen Wadley, who teaches Latin, explained the history of this day for the Romans.

“It was a Catholic saint’s day commemorating the death of a martyr named Valentine. He was possibly a priest, possibly a bishop, definitely martyred,” Wadley wrote in an email. “To be sainted, he had to be associated with miracles. Time has built traditions of affiliation with lovers, weddings and defiance of Roman Emperors.”

Cultures celebrate love in ways that sometimes share similarities, and often differ with American’s ideas of Valentine’s Day. Though each festivity has its roots in specific cultural history, from Denmark to Taiwan one thing they all share in common is an uplifting of love and community.


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