All you need is love
CWU international students share how their cultures celebrate Valentine's Day
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For Americans, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, bouquets of red roses, giant brown teddy bears and dinners at fancy restaurants are common Valentine’s Day traditions.
Andrea Sanchez, a sophomore clinical physiology major, said her best Valentine’s Day was in high school.
Sanchez walked into her Advanced Placement class one morning and was stunned to see presents on her desk: bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Ring Pops and teddy bears holding chocolate.
As she turned toward the class to see who had given her the gifts, her best friend walked toward her and began singing.
“I was in shock, [but] it wasn’t awkward at all. He has always been one of my best friends,” Sanchez said with a laugh. “I used to be really into Hot Cheetos, so one of the lines of the song was the girl he loved, loved Hot Cheetos.”
He asked her if she would be his valentine and she accepted.
Jourdan Plante, a freshman who is hoping to major in history, said he believes Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday, a way for companies to sell candy.
However, that changed when he met Samantha, whom he’s dated for nearly a year.
“Because I’m with someone that I genuinely care about, the holiday has more meaning,” Plante said. He plans to surprise Samantha at work in their hometown of Richland, Washington.
“I might buy [her] some chocolate, because chocolate is a necessity,” he said.
In Saudi Arabia, the holiday isn’t celebrated. Nisser Aldossary, a mechanical engineering major, said there are only two holidays that his people celebrate: Eid al-Ftir and Eid al-Adha.
He explained that Eid al-Ftir occurs after Ramadan—the month of fasting. For Eid al-Adha, it is tradition to kill a sheep to feed their family and the poor.
“We don’t have Valentine’s Day. It is frowned upon to be [physically] close to someone before marriage,” he said. “Married [couples] are only allowed to hold hands in public.”
While some countries do not celebrate the holiday, there are others that make the most of the celebration of love.
In Japan, Nae Muraoka, junior marketing major, said there are two versions of Valentine’s Day. In Japan, Feb. 14 is a day for friends. She said girls and women give homemade chocolates to friends and family. “You give chocolate to everybody,” she said with a laugh.
Muraoka said that Valentine’s Day is a holiday that was adopted in 1996. It is not meant to be a romantic day.
The second version of Valentine’s Day in Japan is “White Day.”
This holiday, adopted in 2000, is held on March 14. It is a day where men go to department stores and purchase chocolate and flowers.
“Men don’t know how to cook or make anything at all,” Muraoka said. “So they buy chocolate instead of making it.”
She says that her culture was impacted by American and European culture, which is why chocolate is such a big thing.
Muraoka said that White Day and Valentine’s Day are celebrated in different months because on Feb. 3 and 4, there is another holiday.
“We have our own customs and traditions,” she said.
On Feb. 3 and 4 parents put on masks and become “monsters” to scare their kids to help them grow up and be brave.
In order to get rid of the monsters, children have to throw soybeans at their parents.
“It makes the children not be afraid in life. It brings happiness,” Muraoka said.
Mandukhai Sukhbaatar (Mandy), a sophomore majoring in construction management, is from Mongolia. She said Valentine’s Day—or Valentiinii Udur—is celebrated on Feb. 14. Mongolia adopted the holiday from Russia about 15 years ago.
People dress in red and there are red balloons and hearts everywhere. It’s a day where men only give chocolate to the girl they like.
“One guy gave me white chocolate,” Sukhbaatar said. “And I didn’t know the meaning of it until after.”
One early morning on Valentine’s Day in her country, Sukhbaatar walked to the grocery store and before she even got there she saw men were running around.
She didn’t understand why they ran, but once she got to the store she realized that men run around to try to get flowers as a surprise to their girlfriends or wives.
‘My country celebrates Valentine’s day,” Sukhbaatar said. “But it’s nothing as big as it is here.”