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Comments & Curiosities:

Not just thoughts that count

February 13, 2010|By Peter Buffa

Tell me you didn’t forget.

Valentine’s Day falls on Feb. 14 this year, which is to say, today.

If you did forget, you better hope you’re reading early enough to can get to a florist before she wakes up. You should probably unhook the garage door and raise it by hand. That thing would wake the dead, which, if you recall, is where Valentine’s Day comes from – dead Romans, and the ancient Roman holiday of Lupercalia, the annual February fertility fest where the girl-Romans at the party put their names in a bowl and the boy-Romans drew the names.

Flash forward a few millennia, and the little pieces of parchment turned into cards, followed by jewelers, candy makers and of course Hallmark Cards, whipping everyone into a frenzy and badabing, Valentine’s Day, which is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world.

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That’s what got me thinking that it would be interesting, assuming you use a fairly loose definition of interesting, to see how Valentine’s Day is celebrated everywhere else but here, which is a great place to be if you have to be anywhere.

We begin with the former Prussian Empire. In Germany and Austria, as one would expect, men go for the straightforward, no-nonsense approach. On Valentine’s Day, when you want to tell that very special fräulein “Ich liebe dich,” which let me hasten to add means “I love you” — flowers are how it is done.

At the other end of the spectrum, in the “Could this be any more complicated?” category, is Malaysia. On the Malaysian version of Valentine’s Day, all the single ladies write their names and phone numbers on an orange, yes, an orange, then toss it in the closest river in the hope that the man of their dreams might find it. The “love oranges” are considered very lucky and are eagerly scooped up by fruit vendors and sold at a premium in local markets, which I would think bites if you are one of the single ladies. You carefully write your name and number and “call me” on your orange, launch it and hope Mr. Right finds it, but the only call you get is from an 83-year old woman who lives alone except for her three cats and doesn’t understand why there is a phone number on her orange. Love is not easy, especially in Malaysia.

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