A man walks past a luxury store in Tokyo January 30, 2014. Photo by Yuya Shino, Reuters
MANILA -- For those guys who are grumbling about having to buy gifts for their girlfriends this Valentine's Day, consider heading to Tokyo or Seoul.
In South Korea and Japan, Valentine's Day is a time when women express their affection for their boyfriends or husbands by giving them chocolates or presents.
But women shouldn't fret -- they will get a chance to be showered with expensive chocolates or jewelry on March 14, which is called "White Day."
In Seoul, there's even a day for single people to wallow in their loneliness. They meet with their single friends to eat bowls of black bean noodles (jajangmyeon) on "Black Day" (April 14).
As if the pressure of Valentine's Day and White Day is not enough, South Korean couples also celebrate various romantic days throughout the year such as Rose Day (May 14); Kiss Day (June 14) and Pepero Day (November 11). Pepero Day is named after the chocolate covered-cookie sticks, which look like the number 11.
A bride and groom jump into a pond after being chased by a "pirate" during a wedding ceremony ahead of Valentine's Day in Prachin Buri province, east of Bangkok. Photo by Damir Sagolj, Reuters
Meanwhile, in Thailand, many couples choose Valentine's Day to register their marriage. Hundreds of brides and grooms head to the district office of Bang Rak in Bangkok, since its name means "Village of Love".
Thai women also head to Trimurti shrine, located in front of Central World in Bangkok, to offer red roses and candles to kneel before the Hindu deity and pray they will find love.
In Peru, Valentine's Day is usually celebrated by young couples with chocolates, flowers and other presents. Peruvians would take their girlfriends out for dinner and take romantic walks in the parks. One popular spot is "Parque del amor" (Love Park), located in the esplanade of Miraflores district in Lima. Here, there is a stone sculpture "The Kiss" by a leading Peru artist Victor Delfin.
In Germany, you may find people exchanging heart-shaped gingerbread cookies with messages such as "Ich Liebe Dich" (I love you) on Valentine's Day. These Lebkuchen are usually found in festivals during Oktoberfest.
City of Romeo and Juliet
Verona celebrates Valentine's Day with a "Verona in Love" festival, which features a reenactment of famous scenes from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."
Verona, known as the city of Romeo and Juliet, goes all out on the most romantic day of the year with its "Verona in Love" festival (February 13-16). The city offers guided tours retracing the star-crossed lovers' footsteps, free romantic concerts and even a red heart-shaped market.
Even if you're not in Verona, you can download the app LeaveOn and leave a romantic message for your loved one. During the Verona in Love festival, the messages will be shown on a screen.
For singles, you can send a letter to Juliet, just like in the Amanda Seyfried movie. Verona's Juliet Club (Club di Giulietta) gets thousands of letters about unrequited love and heartbreak every year. Volunteers answer each letter by hand.
Beyond February 14
China has its own Valentine's Day called Qixi Festival, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. This year, it falls on August 2, 2014.
The Qixi festival is based on a romantic legend about a goddess weaver girl who falls in love with a mortal cowherd. However, gods conspired to separate the lovers and banished them to opposite sides of the Milky Way. But once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, magpies would form a "bridge" to reunite them for a day.
In Wales, they have their own patron saint of love and friendship -- St.Dwynwen, who lived during the 5th century. St Dwynwen's Day is celebrated on January 25.
The remains of Dwynwen's church can still be found on Llanddwyn island. There is also Dwynwen's well where a sacred fish's movements can reportedly predict couples' fortunes. Visitors believe if the water boils in the well, they will be blessed with love and good luck.