Monday, 15 February 2021

Valentine's Day Customs Around the World

 by Enisa Haines

Image courtesy of: giphy.com

Valentine's Day was yesterday, as witnessed by the overflow of red roses, heart-shaped chocolates, cute teddy bears, balloons and jewelry in shops all around the globe. 

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Author's photo

Too consumerised? Many a loved-up couple splurged anyway - it's about love and romance, after all - some also enjoying customs unique to their country. Here I take a look at some of those customs.

Argentina

Invented for commercial reasons and now a yearly tradition, Valentine's Day is celebrated in a 'week of sweetness' from 13-20 July with lovers giving chocolates and other sweets. 

Brazil

To avoid clashing with Carnival held in February or March, Dia dos Namorados festival, also known as 'Lovers Day', is celebrated on June 12. As well as the usual exchange of chocolates, cards and flowers, there are music festivals and dance performances. 'Lovers Day' is not only for couples but is enjoyed by family and friends too. The following day, Saint Anthony's Day - honouring the patron saint of marriage - single women hoping Saint Anthony will bring them a husband do particular rituals or simpatias.

Bulgaria. 

On February 14, Bulgarians celebrate San Trifon Zartan, the 'day of winemakers'. Couples young and old celebrate their love with a glass of local wine.

China

Valentine's Day in China is Qixi, the Seventh Night Festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year. Chinese lore reveals that Zhinu, a heavenly king's daughter, fell in love with Niulang, a poor cowherd. They married and had twins but when the news reached Zhinu's father, their union was not to be. Zhinu's mother came to bring Zhinu back to the stars. However, when Niulang's cries and the cries of the children rang through the heavens, the king said Zhinu and Niulang could meet once a year on Qixi.  During the festival, women hoping to find good husbands offer melons and other fruits to Zhinu while couples pray for happiness and wealth. At night, everyone watches the sky, looking on as the stars Vega and Altair (Zhinu and Niulang) come close in their annual reunion.

Czech Republic

On Valentine's Day, May 1, young couples go on a pilgrimage to the statue of the poet Karol Kynek Macha and for good luck kiss under the cherry trees.

Denmark

Celebrated in Denmark since the early 1990s, the day of love and romance is celebrated with a twist. Instead of gifting roses and chocolates, friends and lovers exchange handmade cards with pressed white flowers ('snowdrops'). There is also the exchange 'lover's cards'. When first used these cards were transparent, showing a picture of the card giver giving a gift to his love. Today a 'lover's card' is any card given on Valentine's Day. Another custom is the gifting of gaekkebrev, a 'joking letter' with a funny poem written on elaborately-cut paper and anonymously signed with dots. If the women receiving the 'joking letter' correctly identifies the sender, she receives a chocolate egg at Easter.

England

On Valentine's Day some women used to place bay leaves on their pillows, one at each corner and one in the centre, so they would dream of their future husbands. Other women placed bay leaves wet with rose water across the pillows. In Norfolk, Jack Valentine acts as a Santa for Valentine's Day. Children  wait for Old Father Valentine who, out of their sight, places lollies and small gifts on their porches.

Estonia

February 14 is Sobrapaev or 'friendship day' with everyone - couples, singles, family members, friends - celebrating love with the exchange of gifts.

Finland

Like Estonia's Sobrapaev, Finland's Ystaan Paiva celebrates friendship with gifts and the greeting, "Happy Friendship Day." 

France

In 1415 Charles, the Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife from his prison cell in the Tower of London. Many believe those love letters were the first ever Valentine's Day cards, a custom still popular today, especially in the French village Valentin, called the epicentre of romance for its beautiful yards, trees and homes decorated with love cards, rose and marriage proposal flakes.  Another custom was the une loterie d'amour, 'drawing of love'. Men and women in houses facing each other called out to one another, pairing off. Men not happy with their match would leave the woman for another while the women left unmatched gathered around a bonfire where they burned pictures of the men who rejected them, all the while hurling insults. Over time the bonfires became disorderly and violent that the French Government banned them. 

Ghana

Using the fact that Ghana is one of the world's biggest cocoa producers to increase tourism, the Ghana government named February 14 as National Chocolate Day with chocolate being the main item on restaurant menus and the theme in musical events and performing arts.

Italy

In ancient times Valentine's Day was celebrated as the Spring Festival. Young people looking for love got together, enjoying music and poetry readings before strolling with their love interest. As well young single women would wake up before dawn expecting the first man they spotted to be their future husband. Today's celebrations include romantic dining and the exchanges of gifts, the most popular being Baci Perugina, small, chocolate-covered hazelnuts wrapped with a romantic quote.

Japan

On February 14 it's the women buying chocolates for their male companions or lovers, with high-quality chocolates for husbands and boyfriends, cheaper chocolates for colleagues or acquaintances. On March 14, 'white day', those who were given high-quality chocolates then give their loved ones more expensive gifts such as jewelry.

Philippines

On Valentine's Day in an en masse gala event sponsored by the government, Philippino couples marry or renew their vows.

Romania

Celebrated on February 24, Valentine's Day is the day young people get engaged. Spring season is also celebrated with young men and women picking forest flowers and other couples as a sign of good luck washing their faces with snow. 

Slovenia

February 14, the first day of the New Year of working in the fields, and the day plants begin to regenerate. For this reason the people of Slovenia revere St Valentine is a patron saint of spring. The people also believe that on this day birds 'propose' to each other and to see this they have to walk barefoot through frozen fields. The day of celebrating love is March 12, Saint Gregory's Day.

South Africa

In ancient times, during the pre-Roman pastoral festival of Lupercalia, women pinned the names of their love interests on their sleeves. So, too, do South African ladies and the men learn of their secret admirers. 

South Korea

The romantic couples in South Korea celebrate the day of love in a variety of ways on the 14th of every month. In February women court their men with chocolates, lollies and flowers. In March, on the 'White Day', men add gifts to the chocolates and flowers they give their women. For those who are single, April has  'the black day' where singles mourn being alone by eating bowls of jajangmyeon, black bean-paste noodles. In May it's back to celebrating romance with the 'day of roses', in June 'the day of kisses', in December 'the day of hugs'. 

South West China

On 15 March, the people of Miao in southwest China celebrate the Sisters' Meal festival. Women wearing beautiful dresses accessorised with silver offer a variety of dishes featuring coloured rice placed on silk fabric to young men walking the roads. If two chopsticks are found in the chosen rice, the destiny of the lovers is love. If a clove of garlic is found, love is not to be.

Spain

On 9 October, the Feast of Saint Dionysus, as parades fill the streets of Spanish villages, men  make macadora, a marzipan figurine, as their gift to their female lovers. 

Wales

The Welsh don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Instead, on January 25, they celebrate San Dwynwen, Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, with the gifting of love spoons, a custom begun in the 17th century where Welsh men carved intricate patterns onto wooden spoons as a symbol of their love for a woman. Today love spoons are also gifted at weddings, births and anniversaries.

Whether single or in a loving relationship, we all have many traditions to enjoy on Valentine's Day. What's your tradition?

Love to love: love spoons in Wales - swooning!

Love to laugh: Not funny really but can't help a giggle at the garlic for the unlucky in South-West China or cheap chocolates in Japan. 

Love to learn: about all the fascinating Valentine's Day traditions

Monday, 1 February 2021

The Breathless List – Pandemic Style

And an update from the Breathless in the Bush ladies


(Sorry in advance! This is a long one)


Normally, in January each year, the Breathless in the Bush ladies reveal their favourite ANZ romance read of the year.


But, let’s be serious, 2020 wasn’t a NORMAL year.

Adobe Stock - SharlottaU - 338693547

And so, while we didn’t want to leave you hanging without a list, we did take a slightly different approach this year – compiling a list of the books (or not books) that got us through 2020 (and, we do note that they are not all Aussie or Kiwi this year).


First up, our book reviewer extraordinaire, Miranda who, when asked which books helped her survive 2020 gave us the following great recommendations;


I found The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home by Australian GP Joanna Nell a terrific example of the endurance of the human spirit, friendship, and love. This book is a story of connection in a nursing home, an environment most people don't want to find themselves in, told with great warmth, empathy and lovely gentle humour. It gives hope that no matter what the circumstances, others are also going through tough times, and there is always a kindred spirit who understands - or has an inkling - what you are going through. Every time I think of the book, I smile. The perfect thing to read in lockdown. 


Another wonderful pick-me-up romance to read in these troubled times is Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie. This book is the end of a 'Marriage of Convenience' series, so I'd met and been highly entertained by these characters before (although you can read this stand alone - but why would you when you can have 4 delicious books to inhale?). I think the anticipation of reading the fiery marriage of the icy cool duke and the wonderfully independent and slightly reckless, impetuous George (Lady Georgiana) was just fabulous. She turned every stuffy outdated thought he had on its head, and made him completely rethink the way he treated women and marriage - for the better (yay!). In the process she was still honest and 'herself' to the core, a complete heroine. I absolutely loved their rocky road to love; the story showed that love changes everything. The romantic in me loves that!


For the wonderful Breathless lady, Lynne, she discovered the wonderful Natasha Lester and devoured all of Natasha’s backlist. Lynne said:


I read all her wonderful books taking me to what I have found to be a most romantic time in history.

Amongst all the dangers and atrocities, there are incredible stories of love and survival and Natasha has certainly recreated wonderful stories in this time frame.

So hard to pick a favourite but if pushed would have to say The Paris Secret which combines a compelling romance with an intriguing mystery.  Definitely a can't put down story which I found to be case with all her books.


Lynne also told me that as long as there are books like Natasha’s to read, lockdown can go on forever.

Yeah, nah Lynne… I love your thinking, but I cannot be stuck in my house FOREVER 😉


And then the fabulous historical romance author Cassandra found solace in Amy Rose Bennett’s How to Catch a Sinful Marquess. This story is book three in Amy Rose’s Disreputable Debutantes series, described by the author as: a reserved debutante and a former soldier make an unlikely but fated match as they hasten for the Isle of Skye and, I mean, who doesn’t like disreputable debutants, soldiers and Scotland! Cassandra said that this book was "just the tonic I needed after finding it hard to read anything."

And finding it hard to read ANYTHING was certainly an affliction suffered by others in the Breathless in the Bush team. Both Jayne and Alyssa reported finding it hard to find the energy to read with everything else happening – whether that was writing work, work work or family and friends. Jayne did find some escape in Tricia Stringer’s The Family Inheritance – which, she says, highlighted the importance of family and communication. Jayne said:

 

One thing I really felt through Covid was how lucky I am to have my family all living in Australia, even though I wasn't able to see them as often as normal due to living in different states, at least I knew they were safe and close. A few friends of mine have family overseas and I couldn't imagine how painful it must be knowing that it could be years until they would be able to easily visit each other in person again. 


Alyssa, on the other hand, commented that she had found some solace in work. Working as a speech pathologist in the day job, Alyssa noted that it was good to know she was helping, and that there was plenty of variety coming in her front door!


And then there was Marilyn, who struggled with romance and happily ever afters in 2020 (SHOCK! HORROR! KIDDING!).


Finding it hard to find romances that interested her, Marilyn turned to other genres to fill her well but (OF COURSE!) returned to romance via a Barbara Erskine dual timeline historical romance, Sleeper’s Castle. Marilyn LOVES time slip stories, and said that she had been meaning to read this one for a long time as Barbara is the QUEEN of time slips (at least according to Marilyn!). Marilyn said:

'Two women, centuries apart. Linked in a place haunted by its history' is the tagline that drew me in, that and the fact that it's set in Wales (we had to cancel our third trip there in mid-2020, and I am so missing it!). It's a haunting tale with one heroine's story set in the 1400s, the other, a modern-day heroine. 


Great characters, fabulous settings. If only we could travel back in time... 


And then, unlike many of us, who did not get the memo until Netflix launched Bridgerton on Christmas Day, Sharon found the Julia Quinn bandwagon early in 2020! She, of course, started at Book 1 with The Duke and I but then read through all 8 of the Bridgerton books and followed those with the Rokesby series. Sharon said:


I loved escaping from the worries of the pandemic year into a world of romance, particularly Regency romance. Julia Quinn’s characters are the sort of people I would love to know well, and her novels are real page turners. Of course, my Regency romance year culminated with the release of the first series of Bridgerton on December 25. I’ve watched it twice already.


Then, last but not least, is the gorgeous Enisa, who returned to an old fave, Nora Roberts (Queen Nora, if you please!) and a new series, The Chronicles of the One. Enisa said:

Part fantasy, part romance, part adventure, the series (written over 3 years just before 2020), starts in Ireland with an event that causes the outbreak of a deadly virus that kills off most of the world's population (an eerie echo of Covid-19). Many who survive discover they have abilities stemming from 'magick.' This magick creates fear and hatred in those who aren't left gifted and wars break out, threatening humanity. It is up to one such gifted girl, and the boy who is her destiny, to save her new people. Loved, loved, loved this series. 


That the book was about a virus pandemic that has love fighting hate drew me in. I'm a sucker for stories where good wins against evil.


Who isn’t a sucker for good winning against evil? Seriously? Who isn’t?


Oh, yeah. And then there’s the book that got me through 2020.


I actually read more than I thought I did this year, but I did tend to read in fits and starts rather than consistently. And when I read – I binged authors and backlists. Katee Robert, Kylie Scott, Amy Andrews, K. Bromberg and Helena Hunting all have lots of entries on my ‘have read’ list. Yet, when I looked at my list I can’t say that any single book got me through 2020 – it was probably a podcast that saved my sanity – the Fated Mates podcast with Sarah Maclean and Jen Prokop (hey, I’m writing the list, I can go off track if I want!). If you aren’t already listening to this podcast, what are you waiting for? There are THREE seasons to catch up on. Sarah and Jen are knowledgeable, honest and if you don’t laugh at least five times during each show, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!


An update from Breathless in the Bush


On 19 March 2020 I (Kristine), like who knows how many other people lucky enough to be able to do so, I started working from home.


Adobe Stock - Petra Richlii - 377598177
Since that day I’ve been into the office on less than 10 occasions (most of them actually in January 2021). Like almost everyone in the country I’ve spent innumerable hours staring down the barrel of my laptop’s camera, on Zoom, Skype, Teams and Facebook Messenger, ‘virtually’ talking to all the people I’d usually be seeing face to face. I’ve been entertained by and wanted to strangle my mother* in equal measure (we live together), I’ve missed family dinners, Easter and Christmas gatherings, conferences, travel and hoarded just a little toilet paper. 


I even started watching Netflix (yes, I was LATE to that party…).


Others have lost friends and family members, or have not been able to see and spend time with loved ones, whether those loved ones were in aged care homes, interstate, or across the world. They’ve been sick and they’ve been scared. This virus has been serious business. Honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve been just a little thankful that my father passed away in November 2019 and not November 2020 because I DO NOT KNOW how I would have said goodbye from such a distance. 

Love your family and friends peeps. From a safe distance. With masks. And hand sanitiser.



And yes, in saying all this, I recognise how lucky we have been in Australia. Less than 1000 dead is still too many, and yet still much better than the numbers we’re seeing in the US, UK and Europe. We’ve also had significantly less people fall ill and, like always, we’ve recognised the Aussie spirit – pulling together off the back of floods and fires, to manage this virus as best we can.


But, 2020 has also invited us all to rethink our relationships with work, families, friends, and, importantly for us Breathless in the Bush ladies, writing. I don’t know about you but the one benefit I saw of working from home – avoiding the commute and WRITING ALL THE WORDS, funnily did not materialise in the way I’d imagined 😉 Yes, clearly I can still procrastinate like a boss.


So, in light of 2020, and on behalf of all the BitB clan, I’m writing to share an announcement.


Breathless is NOT going anywhere but, at least for 2021, we will be a little less prolific, publishing our blog every second month or so, rather than pretty much every week. We love everyone in our community – and we love blogging for you, but it’s just not feasible for us to keep up this pace!


We will be back later in February with our stalwart, Enisa Haines, leading the charge. We’ll then have posts up in later in February and around mid-month in April, June, August, October and December and, last but not least, OF COURSE, will be Miranda with her annual, and irreplaceable, Christmas round up. 


If you haven’t already read 2020’s round up, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? IT’S HERE.


We might also pop by from time to time when we have NEWS to share… a fabulous read, a celebration (when, finally, I’ve FINISHED a manuscript!) or just something funny (because, frankly, we need more funny in 2021). But we won’t be in your eyeballs every week.


We hope that you, our amazing community, understands our need to take a little breath (tee hee, see what I did there…) and we hope you’ll stay with us – and share with us in the comments below some of the reads (or other things) that got you through 2020.


Kristine xx


* PS, just to be clear, I don’t REALLY want to strangle my mother. It’s a turn of phrase… Don’t call the cops on me!

Kristine Charles writes sexy tales where coffee (and red wine) is abundant, designer shoes and handbags are cheap, chocolate has no calories and men always put the toilet seat down. Find her at www.wordsbykristinecharles.com, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

LOVE TO LOVE: the Aussie romance writing, and reading community, who all pulled together in 2020.

LOVE TO LAUGH: At quarantine jokes… Come on, tell me these (from Fatherly) don’t elicit at least a chuckle…

Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves. Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.

After years of wanting to thoroughly clean my house but lacking the time, this week I discovered that wasn't the reason.

The World Health Organisation announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out. 

And yes, thank me for putting that earworm in your head. Woof! 

LOVE TO LEARN: Or, at least, to sign up for learning. I’ve signed up for MasterClass, and Babbel in the last year or so and yet… I still procrastinate by watching reruns of The West Wing… go figure.

Thursday, 31 December 2020