How love is celebrated around the world

Love can shape our traditions just as much as our traditions shape the way we love

The first red flag is not having chemistry with your partner. PHOTO: Jayesh Jalodara / Unsplash

By: Jeeya Parasbhai Khavadia, SFU student

Victor-Marie Hugo, considered one of the most important French romantics, was a poet, novelist, and dramatist, internationally known for Les Misérable. He once said, “Life is a flower of which love is the honey.” Love is an essential part of our lives. For me, love is a natural feeling of attachment and affection towards someone or something. It is an emotion that we feel either for a person, animal, thing, or even a special event. Love knows no boundaries and thus transcends age, gender, religion, and race. 

There are numerous types of love that can be expressed in an infinite number of ways. The Greek considered four main types of love: Eros, the love found in romantic relationships, containing passion and intimacy, not to be confused for lust. Philia is the love of strong friendships, where affection, support, and equality are the pillars that sustain it. Storge, or familial love, is governed by empathy, affection, and compassion. Agape, the most important one for long-term relationships, is selfless and unconditional love.

For the Hindu, there are five stages to love: Kama, meaning “craving for sense objects,” is considered as physical or even sexual desire. Shringara is the enthusiasm for intimacy or romance. Maitri, compassion in love, is also associated with motherly love due to being the least selfish. Bhakti, impersonal devotion, is often associated with the love of God, yet it can also be directed towards one’s ideals like kindness, truth, or social justice. Atma-Prema refers to self-love. 

As we grow up, our families and environment help us develop and learn what we will consider important, what our values will be, and so much more. We develop a strong bond with them through the type of love the Greeks would call “storge.” It is a powerful feeling, though, just as with any other relationship, one should not be obliged to love those who have been abusers or who have not shown equal respect towards you. Family love can take many forms, from the love between a parent and their child, to the love between siblings, and love towards extended family members. Indian society favors collectivism over the individualistic notion of western society. Therefore, it is quite normalized to care for family members when they are ill, and they function as a sort of therapeautic support systemalthough this can have some negative effects.

In Latin America, Dia de los Muertos is a holiday for honouring loved ones who passed away, usually, family members. People decorate ofrendas with cempasuchil, candles, food, and photos of their loved ones. They also visit their graves to pay their respect and show love. In the family we hope to find support, a sense of security, confidence, and most importantly, comfort. It is an important aspect of mental and emotional well-being as it helps us feel valued and connected. Family bonds are an important part of development as they help us develop emotional and language skills. Dysfunctional family dynamics can have a detrimental impact on child development, from social isolation to even suffering from depression, anxiety, and addictive behaviors.

Romantic love, or eros according to the Greek, has been the subject of inspiration for many. As enjoyable and appealing as it appears on the surface, it is accompanied by commitment, loyalty, intimacy, and transparency. This type of love, for some, brings the possibility of a sense of fulfillment and has the potential to bring great happiness and shape long-term life plans. Romantic love can strike when you least expect it — you’re never too old for falling in love. Around the world, every culture and every community has their own way to express love towards a romantic partner.

The Wodaabe people in West Africa have The Gerewol Festival in Chad. This is often described as a beauty pageant, where men compete by donning headdresses and makeup, and dance in front of women who act as judges and may later choose them as partners.

In Japan, on the other hand, it’s more common to express love through actions and kind gestures. On Valentine’s day, the women are the ones expected to gift “lots and lots of chocolate” to not only their romantic partner, but to any men in their lives with whom they have a significant relationship. But, the men are expected to reciprocate during White Day, March 14, with gifts up two or three times the value of the ones they received on Valentine’s.

In India, the belief that love develops over time has shaped the way relationships develop; it is common practice for a person’s parents to find a suitable partner for their child. Some women in India might value respecting their parent’s approval over marrying their partner of years. This, in a way, might reflect the importance of family love over romantic love in Indian society. One of the most well-known demonstrations of love comes in the form of a historic monument, the Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India. It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān, in remembrance of his beloved wife who died while giving birth to their 14th child. It is one of the wonders of the world and is profound for its backstory. 

In Germany, during Valentine’s day, gifting chocolate pigs is a tradition as they symbolize luck. The Philippines celebrate Valentine’s day with mass weddings sponsored by the government for couples that can’t easily afford celebrations

The Qixi festival is a traditional Chinese festival and is a day for expressing love between couples. It originates from the legend of Niulang and Zhinü. According to legend, the couple was separated by a river of stars and were only allowed to meet once a year, on the day Qixi festival is celebrated. Typically, women dress up in hanfu, a traditional Chinese dress, and spend the day preparing offerings of tea, wine, flowers, and various fruits to pray to Zhinü for wisdom, a good husband, or a happy life.

Love traditions differ greatly from culture to culture and community to community. From grand romantic gestures to small acts of kindness, each tradition reflects distinct values and customs. These traditions attest to the universality of love and its ability to bring people together and aid in our growth and well-being. To embrace love in all of its forms and expressions we must first strive to truly understand love in the eyes of others. Learning about other cultures’ traditions and ways of expressing affection and love will undoubtedly help build a world of compassion.

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