When is your “Lover’s Day”?

Who wouldn’t want to have a day in their calendar made just to celebrate love? Well, that’s what Valentine’s Day is for. This ritual is celebrated by many different cultures from all around the world. I was born and raised in Brazil and on that day there’s a typical pattern of behavior: couples are expected to exchange gifts and see heart-shaped decorations all around. Romance is the big theme everywhere, indicating that love is one of the important values of the local culture. Also, it’s a day that businesses rely on to profit. These establishments usually provide certain products and deals adapted to the spirit of that celebration and expect to sell a bigger amount of merchandize than at a regular time of the year.

What a lot of people don’t know (that included me until not long ago) is that this social event is celebrated in different ways and has its own background according to each culture. Human beings end up considering their own particular cultural habits as the “normal way to behave” when comparing it to other cultures. We call that tendency ethnocentrism. Because of how we develop a certain loyalty to our own society’s beliefs, it’s a lot more common to see people instinctively acting that way than using cultural relativism. Cultural relativism states that each culture should be analyzed according to its own values, beliefs and environment.

In Brazil we call Valentine’s Day “Dia dos Namorados” (“Lover’s day”). It’s celebrated annually on June 12th, right before Saint Anthony’s day, who’s recognized for blessing young couples with happy and prosperous marriages  [1].

Moving to the U.S., I was really surprised to find out that “Dia dos Namorados” was called “Valentine’s day” and celebrated on February 14th each year. The ritual itself isn’t too different, but I thought it was so odd that the timing is so distinct from my home. At first, I didn’t even associate the name of the celebration with what it actually meant in my culture. Little did I know that this fest day in America had a different story behind it, celebrating the Feast of Saint Valentine.

I didn’t quite understand either why quite a few friends exchanged gifts of that day as well, since in Brazil it’s very clear that only couples took part in that ritual. If a friend sent me any gifts on that day in Brazil, I’d take it as a love declaration. All of my friends in the U.S., though, exchanged either cards, boxes of chocolate or roses even though none of us were romantically involved with each other. You would rarely see this sort of behavior in Brazil.

My surprise with this social phenomenon was due to the process of socialization, which refers to how we learn to interact, behave and perceive the world around us according to our cultural values. I was taught to behave and interact in a certain way on that social occasion. “Dia dos namorados” to me was basically exclusive to couples and supposed to happen in June. Period. Therefore, being in an environment with different rules being applied to that event became somewhat of a foreign experience to me.

By: Laura Rizzotto.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dia_de_São_Valentim


6 thoughts on “When is your “Lover’s Day”?

  1. Laura, I found your blog to be both very interesting and educational at the same time. Until today, I thought that Valentines Day was a holiday unique to the United States, made up by greeting card and candy companies to sell more product in the dead of winter. I can certainly see why you would be so surprised by how we celebrate this holiday here in the United States, I recall even as a small boy in the 1970s having valentines day parties at school and everyone exchanging cards and small gifts of friendship. Its interesting to also note the cultural relativism between genders here in the United States. My personal hypothesis is that this holiday is largely important to females, while men celebrate not because they want to show their love on February 14, but because we want to avoid the confrontation that inevitably comes from failing to properly celebrate (and by properly celebrate, I mean shower your wife or girlfriend with material gifts, such as cards, jewelry, flowers, chocolates, etc). As a man, I personally believe that you should love your partner the same every day and treat them as the special person they are every day, however todays female culture feels differently: a male partner who fails to adequately celebrate Valentines Day is looked upon as a poor lover/boyfriend/husband. Can I ask if women feel the same way in Brazil about how to properly celebrate Valentines Day as they do here in the United States?

    • Thanks for your comment, Mark! Both of us were not aware of how different the celebrations were of basically the same holiday! Isn’t it interesting? In Brazil it is the norm for couples to exchange gifts, but I believe that the way this date is celebrated varies from couple to couple. A guy won’t be considered a bad boyfriend or husband for simply getting a simple gift instead of showering their loved ones with presents. But, As far as I’m concerned, he will probably be judged if he forgets about the holiday!

  2. Its seems the norms in Brazil was to only exchange gifts with people you are in a relationship. In the US we do the same but I will also send my mother some flowers. I do feel that Valentine’s day is another excuse for businesses to flood us with products and tell consumers what they should be doing. I know I will receive many types of sanctions from my girlfriend if I don’t follow societies behavior on that day. I believe a lot of the extra gifts given on Valentine’s day come from the media’s socialization techniques used through movies and how we should act on that day.

    • I believe it’s a very commercial holiday as well, but I think we should just make the best out of it and take it as an opportunity to show once again our love and appreciation for our loved one. Since it’s the norm, I understand your girlfriend’s reaction, but I do understand your position as well, standing for you beliefs.

  3. It appears that you’re looking at the holiday from the point of cultural relativism. When you first came from Brazil did you have more of an ethnocentrism view of our “Lovers Day”? In America it is a norm to exchange gifts with friends as well as their lovers; I can remember going to school and having Valentine’s Day parties were everyone exchanged chocolates or Valentine’s Day cards. Going to any retail store in February can show you that the tradition holds to this day. Your examples also show how culture can influence the reason for a day of celebration that is very similar in meaning, like how in America we celebrate in honor of one saint (not that we actually celebrate the life of the saint himself) and in Brazil a completely different saint is the reason for the day of celebration.

    • Thanks Joshua. I definitely had a ethnocentristic posture when I first came here, expecting things to work just the way they did in my home country. Yep, the thing that got me curious the most were the different names that basically the same holiday has. That led me to researching about it and finding out about the different background stories.

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