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The most romantic alternatives to St Valentine's Day from around the world

The mysterious Saint Valentine didn't have the monopoly on romantic love. Discover some of the wonderful traditions and legends lovers and singles alike from all around the world celebrate year after year.

THE QIXI FESTIVAL (CHINA)

According to a Chinese poem dating back some 2,600 years, there was once a weaver girl called Zhinü who fell in love with a cowherd called Niulang. The girl’s mother was the goddess of heaven and she wasn’t happy that her daughter, a fairy, had fallen for a mortal, and so she sent each to live on opposite sides of an uncrossable silver river. But one year on, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, a flock of magpies formed a bridge and the star struck young lovers were reunited for one day. Today, on the seventh day of the Chinese calendar’s seventh month, young girls make wishes for marrying a good, loving husband. Needlework contests are held and paper is burned as offerings. Newly wed women sprinkle face powder around their homes and make gifts of fruit, flower and makeup to younger, unmarried girls. If it rains on this day it is said to be the tears of the separated lovers, crying in heaven, whereas a magpie sighting is considered a symbol of future happiness and faithfulness. In 2009, Google celebrated the Qixi Festival with a special Google doodle. 


Google's commemorative doodle for China's Qixi Festival


DRAGOBETE (ROMANIA)

Back in Pagan times, 24th February was considered the start of spring – when birds nested and mated – and known as “the day when the birds are betrothed”. On this day, girls would gather in the woods to pick wild flowers, make snowdrop garlands and sing, and when, at sunset, they ran home, the boys would chase their favourite until they caught up for a kiss, thus announcing their engagement to the village. Maidens would also on this day collect the last remnants of snow to be melted and used in love and medicinal potions for the coming year, a tradition which has evolved into young lovers washing their faces on this day with melted snow in hope of happiness and good health. Today it is common for lovers to exchange flowers on this day, and for young women to place a spring of basil under their pillows and eat the salty bread baked by senior women in their families. It is also believed that if you step over your partner’s foot on this day, you will play the dominant role in the relationship. 


An early spring flower coming into bloom. © PicJumbo


TU B'AV (ISRAEL)

This modern day holiday of love once marked the beginnings of the grape harvest, when unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in identical white dresses and danced in the vineyards beneath the glow of a silvery moon, while hopeful bachelors looked on hoping to win the affections of their favourite (the white uniform symbolised the meaningless of material possessions in courtship and long-lasting love). It was also on this day in history (the fifteenth day of the fifth month of the fortieth year of the Hebrew calendar) that a ban would be lifted which forbade female orphans without brothers from marrying outside their tribes, as a way to prevent the loss of their families’ inherited lands. In modern times, this day is popular one for weddings, renewing vows, commitment ceremonies and proposals of marriage. Brides and grooms who marry on this day do not have to fast in the run up to their big days, as they otherwise would. Couples may use this holiday to reflect on their relationships, while singles are reminded to look below the surface when looking for a life partner. 


Grape harvest on a summer's day. © PicJumbo


SAINT DWYNWEN’S DAY (WALES)

This little known saint is celebrated in Wales on 25th January, the 465AD death date of a beautiful young women, the prettiest of 24 daughters, who fell in love with a handsome young prince while she was already promised to another. Distraught, she swallowed a love potion, delivered to her by an angel through her dreams, which allowed her to forget her true love. In exchange for her sacrifice she was spared a loveless marriage, and saw out her days in a convent she founded on Llanddwyn Island off the North Welsh coast of Anglesey. Visitors to the well named after her believed that the eels living in the bottom could foretell whether their relationship would be a happy one (young maidens scattered breadcrumbs then lay breadcrumbs on the surface; if the eels disturbed it, their love would remain true). It is to the existing ruins of Dwynwen's church that couples in the know make a pilgrimage on this day each year.


View along the coast towards the ruins of Eglwyseg Dwynwen, Ynys Llanddwyn, Anglesey, Gwynedd, Wales. © Visit Britain


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Main image: PicJumbo


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Author: Rebecca

Rebecca lives in London with her husband, daughter and dachshund. She hopes her dating blogs for Flame Introductions will inspire you to seek out the best London and UK locations for brilliant dates, and discover some tips along the way to help you find your perfect partner.