Valentine’s Day Around the World

Just like other holidays, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in different ways around the world.

Growing up in Mexico, we celebrated the “Day of Love and Friendship” on February 14th. On this day, it is common for dating or married couples to go out together to eat or for coffee. Street vendors sell clumps of roses or heart-shaped balloons at many street corners. One of my favorite things about Valentine’s Day is Mexico is the importance of friendship. This is not just a holiday for school kids and couples. Many friends exchange gifts or give flowers to each other, too. It truly is a day for love AND friendship.

In the Philippines, people celebrate much like we do in the US, but there is also a big trend to have huge weddings with many people all getting married at once on February 14th. These weddings take place in public places and can include hundreds of couples. Sometimes these are sponsored by the government as a public service.

(Photo from

In Brazil, many people skip celebrating on February 14th and decide to celebrate on June 12th instead. This is the “Dia dos Namorados” or “Lover’s Day”, and they exchange gifts and eat together. Families and friends also can get together to celebrate as well.

While in most countries it is the women that receive gifts, in Japan and South Korea the women give gifts to the men on Valentine’s Day. The men can then respond in kind on March 14th, when it is their turn to shower the women with gifts. I think this sounds like fun!

In South Africa, women wear the name of the man they are interested in on a heart on their sleeve. This stems from an ancient Roman festival, but this could be a really fun way for a guy to find out which girl has a crush on him!

Do you love chocolate? Maybe you’ll want to visit Ghana on February 14th. It is National Chocolate Day there and you can find many chocolate items and meals prepared with chocolate throughout the country. Since they are a big producer and exporter of cocoa, they should know a thing or two about chocolate. 😉

If you love Valentine’s Day, there are some countries that you would NOT enjoy on this special holiday. Some Muslim areas of Indonesia have banned the celebration, since it is not an Islamic holiday and has “Christian” origins. If you celebrate in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Malaysia you risk punishment.

How does your family celebrate? Do you have specific traditions? Maybe you could invite an international student in your city over to eat and talk about how they celebrate!


Uttarayan – International Kite Festival in Gujarat, India

Here’s a fun idea for a family activity … make a kite together! Every year millions of people in cities all over Gujarat, India celebrate the International Kite Festival. This festival marks the end of winter and the coming of summer based on the Hindu calendar. It is usually celebrated January 14th and 15th. People of all different beliefs celebrate this festival together.

There are organized kite competitions, with some very fierce competitors trying to battle it out and break each other’s strings. The strings of the most competitive are prepared by tying them between trees. Glass bangle bracelets are broken into very fine pieces of glass and attached to the string with a special glue. The glass-covered strings, when rubbed on a competitor’s string in the sky, cause them to break. This eliminates the competition.

I don’t recommend that you use glue and glass on your string. 🙂 Just get some lightweight sticks, string, a glue stick or tape, and some tissue paper. You can look up tutorials on how to make a kite online or just wing it and invent your own. Let your kids decorate it with stickers or draw on it. Whether these kites ever actually fly is not important… just have fun and use the time making them to talk about people in other places, like India.

Need some information about India?

  • India is a country with tons of diversity in cultures, regions, and religions. For a book with fun pictures for kids, check out I is for India by Prodeepta Das.
  • If you want more information on culture, languages, and religious beliefs, you can check out Operation World by Jason Mandryk. This book gives parents some great ideas about how to pray for India.
  • Want a historical true story of a missionary to India? Check out books about Amy Carmichael or William Carey. You might even be able to find these at your local church or public library!

Quick ideas for prayer and conversation:

  1. Pray that religious freedom is continued to be allowed and that laws are not passed or upheld that would punish those who want to convert.
  2. Many languages in India still do not have the Bible in their language.
  3. Pray for the safety of missionaries that live in India. Also, pray that they are allowed to stay and work in that country.


(This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and make a purchase, receives a small commission.  I strive to only recommend things that I am familiar with and trust to be of benefit to my readers.)

Three King’s Day (Epiphany) – Around the World

Did you know that in some countries the Christmas celebration doesn’t end with Christmas day? Many people celebrate King’s Day or Epiphany on January 6th (12 days after Christmas). In the Western part of the world, this date is to celebrate the coming of the Magi to see baby Jesus and people meet to eat and celebrate together. In the Eastern part of the world, the celebration of Epiphany is more related to celebrating the baptism of Jesus. The focus tends to be on blessing water, blessing homes, and eating together.

In Mexico, people commonly believe that the Wise Men/Magi or Tres Reyes Magos were named Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar and travelled by horse, camel, and elephant to deliver presents of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus.

Growing up in Mexico, we followed some of the traditions of the Día de los Reyes (Day of the Kings). One of these is the tradition of buying a balloon for each small child and letting them attach a list to it. They let the balloon go and send it into the air…it is said that the Kings then receive the list (much like writing a letter to Santa Claus). The children leave their shoes by their bed or the door on January 5th, hoping that the Kings will leave them gifts on the morning of January 6th. My brother sent off a balloon for a year or two, but I felt I was too old for this tradition when we moved there. Of course, this didn’t stop me from putting my shoes out. 🙂 Usually my parents only gave us small trinkets in our shoes, since we had just celebrated Christmas, but many Mexican kids received larger gifts.

Rosca de Reyes

Another part of the celebration that takes place in Mexico is the Rosca de Reyes, which is a special sweet bread in the shape of an oval ring. It has candied fruit on top and a miniature baby Jesus doll hidden inside. Families and friends get together to split the Rosca de Reyes and each participant gets a piece. The person who ends up with the hidden doll inside their piece is supposed to then treat everyone there to a tamale dinner on February 2nd (the Day of the Candles). My parents participated in this with the neighbors, and the person who got the baby Jesus usually hosted a taco dinner, instead.

In Brazil, the Day of Kings is called Día do Reis. The night of January 5th is a night of celebrations with music, food, and treats. Many people put away their Christmas decorations then, as well.

France has two different kinds of kind bread or cake, depending on where you live. If you are from the North, you will probably eat a flat, round, flaky cake that is filled with frangipane or fruit. This is called Galette des Rois, and it usually has a trinket or bean baked into the cake. If you get the piece of cake with the bean in it, you are king or queen for the day and you get to wear a cardboard or paper crown. If you are from the South, the cake might be more crown-shaped and is usually filled with fruit.

Filipino children also leave their shoes out for the Kings to leave treats on Araw ng mga Tatlóng Hari (Three Kings Day). In some parts of the Philippines, three men dress up as “kings” and ride around giving treats to the children in the area.

In my research, I could not find anything about King’s Day celebrations in Zimbabwe or Indonesia (the other two countries found in Missionary Kid Stories). I did however, find information about many other countries. If you search for King’s Day or Epiphany, you can find information about how other countries around the world celebrate, too.

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New Year’s Eve Around the World

Have you ever wondered how people in other countries celebrate New Year’s Eve? Kids love learning about different traditions and will enjoy hearing these interesting facts about some of the countries in Missionary Kid Stories. (The following information is not in the book.)

In Brazil, people celebrate Réveillon (New Year’s Eve) in Rio de Janeiro with huge fireworks shows, especially on Copacabana beach. Millions of people dress in white and crowd the beaches to watch the fireworks. Many people run into the ocean and jump seven waves. They also send flowers and gifts out onto the water to the goddess of water, Lemanjá. It is said that she will answer the wishes of those who send gifts to her on this night.

In the Philippines, people celebrate the Media Noche (Spanish for midnight) or Bisperas ng Bagong Taon (Tagalog) by having a midnight meal, lighting fireworks, and making a lot of noise to drive away the evil spirits. Some dress in polka-dots and eat round fruits (like purple grapes) to celebrate. They believe that this will give them prosperity in the coming year. Long noodles and eggs are eaten because these symbolize long life and new life, respectively. At the exact moment of midnight, Filipino children jump into the air because they believe that it will make them taller.

“La Saint-Sylvestre” or “Le Réveillon du Nouve An” is celebrated in France. Large cities have large fireworks displays, but some people just organize dance parties or get together with friends for an evening of food and fun. Good seafood and meats are prepared for a meal. At the stroke of midnight, people kiss under the mistletoe and throw confetti and blow whistles.

In Indonesia, large cities like Bandung have some main streets closed off with many people, food trucks, and performances. People also participate in isighosah (mass prayer) lead by religious leaders. Local people will wish you “Selamat tahun baru!”, or Happy New Year in Indonesian. For Hindu people in Indonesia, the Hindu New Year is celebrated sometime in March or April.

Mexico also has many traditions to celebrate the “Año Nuevo”. Many people thoroughly clean their house before the dinner celebration that evening. Midnight mass is attended by many. At midnight, people ring bells, eat grapes, and kiss and greet each other for good luck and prosperity in the new year. Many people wear new clothes that evening, and some even wear red or yellow underwear (for love and wealth). Candles may be lit on a plate surrounded by lentils, beans, corn, rice, and cinnamon. As the candles burn out, the contents of the plate are buried to ensure lots of food being available in the coming year.

The country of Zimbabwe in Africa is a very diverse country with many cultures, but almost everyone celebrates the New Year. Large cities like Harare have big organized celebrations. Families get together to eat a traditional meal. Tourists from all over go to Victoria Falls for the huge Vic Falls Carnival, a huge celebration with lots of entertainment.

And lest you think that these are silly traditions that only people in other countries have, don’t forget about millions of people in the southern United States that have their own tradition. On New Year’s Day, they eat a dish some call Hoppin John. This dish is made with black-eyed peas, onions, rice, bacon or hog jowl, and salt. Many also eat it with greens on the side. They believe that this will give them good luck and prosperity in the new year.

As you talk about these traditions with your kids, remind them that even though traditions are fun, we need to trust in the only source of “good luck” and prosperity – God, our heavenly Father. There is no harm in wearing white clothes or eating black-eyes peas, as long as we know that these things cannot bring us peace, wealth or good luck.

Psalm 37: 4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Christmas Around the World

Would your family like to find out what Christmas is like in other countries?  Do you need ideas for fun recipes and crafts?  Try Kate & Mack’s 12 Days of Christmas.

Register now at and receive 12 daily emails with info about Christmas in each of 12 different countries.

Kate and Mack in a snowy landscape

You may not actually have the time or energy to do all of these activities this Christmas season (because let’s face it – we’re all pretty busy).  BUT it will be a great way for your family learn about other traditions around the world, even if you only read them or do a few!