Lovebirds may love it, but the bouquet of roses, boxes of chocolates, and romantic dinners that many of us associate with Valentine’s Day is not universally celebrated — nor accepted.
Here’s a roundup of places across the world that have either banned the celebration or turned the holiday into something different.
The View From Estonia and Finland
Feb. 14 in both Estonia and Finland looks very similar to what many in the West are familiar with, and red and pink heart decorations are also abundant in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
But celebrations of romantic love do not take center stage, rather, the two countries have opted to call the holiday “Friend’s Day.” You’ll still find couples celebrating relationships, but the emphasis is on people gifting close friends cards and flowers to show appreciation for one another.
As one Finnish person told TIME magazine: “There are no other holidays that recognize that your friends are as important as your family or romantic relationships. Christmas and other holidays are spent with family, friends are as important as everyone else in your life.”
The View From Iran
Since 2011 the Iranian government has publicly discouraged the celebration of Valentine’s Day, restricting the sales of themed-goods and threatening legal action against those who defy the order.
Like many other Muslim-majority countries that have banned the holiday, authorities see the celebration as a Christian festival that has become increasingly westernized.
The View From India
India’s Animal Welfare Board last week attempted to rebrand Valentine’s Day as “Cow Hug Day,” claiming it was important to revitalize India’s Hindu-majority culture and traditions, which regards cows as sacred animals.
“In view of the immense benefit of the cow, hugging with cow will bring emotional richness hence will increase our individual and collective happiness,” the board wrote in a statement. “Therefore, all the cow lovers may also celebrate the February 14 as Cow Hug day keeping in mind the importance of mother cow and make life happy and full of positive energy.”
But the initiative backfired after it became the forefront of internet mockery and memes, with many sharing videos of cows seemingly unhappy and annoyed to be embraced. The government body later withdrew its circular.
Some Hindu nationalists have long protested against Valentine’s Day celebrations, popular with many in India, even as far-right fringe parties have proposed that couples who display affection on the holiday be forced to marry.
The View From Crimea
The Kremlin-appointed governor of Sevastopol — the capital city of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — sent a Telegram message on Tuesday urging residents to write a letter to soldiers fighting in Ukraine as opposed to crushes or loved ones.
Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev argued that the holiday is “imposed by the Western entertainment and consumption industry,” and that people should show appreciation to the military instead.
“Who really wants to send a ‘valentine’ in February, I suggest writing a letter to a soldier instead. Our defenders will smile and say ‘thank you!’ That’s our way!” he wrote.