International Connection celebrates foreign Valentine’s Day traditions with ice breakers and speed dating

Students at Binghamton University had the opportunity to learn about how different cultures celebrate love’s biggest day abroad this Valentine’s Day, at an International Connection meeting on Thursday.

Members of International Connection invited students from different backgrounds to share their country’s Valentine’s Day experiences and meet new people.

International Connection vice president Munira Pulodi said traditions vary greatly from country to country.

“How they celebrate it in other countries, it’s completely different from what we expect,” said Pulodi, a junior majoring in human development. “We have different tales about Valentine’s Day. In some countries they have a different date, or for example in Korea the girls do the gifts for the men, not the other way around.”

Reba Francis, a freshman majoring in political science, opened for the event by explaining Valentine’s Day traditions in the United States.

“We celebrate it and nobody really knows why,” she said. “People celebrate it usually through giving cards, candy, night at a hotel. It started off in Europe and was associated with romantic love in the Middle Ages, but it goes back even farther to pagan rituals. The most common Valentine’s Day symbol is a heart and cupid who carries a bow and arrow where he shoots people and they fall in love. That’s what’s associated with Valentine’s Day in America, even though it’s really a European event.”

Over the next 20 minutes, presenters talked about Korean, Israeli and Persian traditions. Sahar Khamsehi, a first-year graduate student studying industrial systems engineering, expounded on the traditions of the ancient Persian holiday, Sepandarmazgan.

“I want to introduce you to our love day in my country, Iran, Persia,” Khamsehi said. “It is actually three days after Valentine’s Day, we have this celebration that is so old it is before the birth of Christ. Our festival, it was kind of religious, but it’s very ancient. It was always for women, not for men, so don’t try getting gifts for men!”

The event featured a speed-dating game between students, though finding a date wasn’t the goal.

“We want people to make friends, not meet someone romantically,” Pulodi said. “If that happens it’s really nice, but it’s more about Valentine’s in different country. It doesn’t have to be in their same culture, but there’s always someone they can relate to.”

After several ice breaker games and speed dating, the remaining students split up to talk, take pictures and exchange numbers. While many attendees were excited at the new friends they had made, some, such as Caroline Guo, a junior majoring in economics, came for different reasons.

“We don’t have any dates,” she said.