Valentine’s Day is for lovers, for romance, for showing your special someone what they mean to you. Is it not? I’m sure that’s what most people would think anyway!
At this moment in time we’re living in Finland, where, like most of the world Valentine’s Day is celebrated.
By all appearances everything seems exactly as you would expect leading up to February 14th. Little pop up stalls and stores swamped in all things pinkish, hundreds of heart-shaped balloons and chocolates everywhere you turn, and busy people running about carrying Valentine emblazoned shopping bags. Oh and I better not forget all the advertising, the shops would hate for you to forget!
Seems like your typical first week or two of February, right? There is a familiar type of excitement in the air, accompanied by all the hype and happiness, but this is where you’ll find the similarities stop.
Things are done a little differently round here.
In Finland Valentine’s Day translates to and is celebrated as “Friends Day” (Ystävänpäivä) Yes, you heard that right! Not friends with benefits type of day, just regular ol’ friends day…
You can imagine my horror and surprise when on my first Valentine’s Day here my work mate came up to me with a love heart chocolate and a romantic type card. Giving me a big hug and saying happy Valentine’s Day.
I was a bit taken aback, I didn’t know she fancied me, my god.. I’m married! What the… I didn’t know what to do, it was actually quite a terrible moment. Then she just walked off, luckily, as I was lost for words!
Everything went back to normal after that and we went about our day without any awkwardness. I also began to notice others saying it to each other and more people were saying it to me as well.
Before long I realized that Valentine’s Day in Finland celebrates friendship which is actually really sweet. Anyone that considers you a friend will say happy Valentine’s Day to you and usually give you a chocolate or something.
Sometimes acquaintances say it too, just for the sake of saying it. To me it was strange that people were giving romantic type gifts, heart ornaments, chocolates and flowers etc. when it’s technically “Friend’s Day”.
The traditions of giving romantic gifts has basically poured over from other countries, same gifts but different meanings.
So if you’re ever in Finland on Valentine’s Day, and someone whispers it to you or gives you something don’t get too excited or alarmed! Don’t be like me and freeze like a statue without saying it back! Because they just think you’re a nice person!
Have you had any similar experiences? If you have, it’d be great to hear about them.