Valentine’s Day in the USA: 3 Good Sites

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After the last post about Valentine’s Day, maybe you’d like to learn more about how it’s celebrated in the US.

Rose image by johnny_automatic at

Here are three websites that describe Valentine’s Day. Each site is very different, but all of them are interesting.

  1. This ESL Valentine’s Day Lesson is a great place to start. It has three pages, with pictures, and it’s a good introduction to Valentine’s Day. It’s easy to read.

  2. For an interesting look at the business side of the holiday, the big card company American Greetings has posted an article called The Business of Valentine’s Day, which includes statistics and other information. The level of this article is advanced, written in a news-media style.

  3. Finally, the History Channel (an American cable TV channel) has a huge Valentine’s Day site, including history, videos, quizzes, and more. (Watch out! If you click on the Valentine Videos page, it’ll start to play the video–with sound–right away. So don’t try it at work…) This website is also mostly at an advanced level. Some of the content here is written in an academic style, but other parts are casual and full of slang.

I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Differences

Valentine’s Day is coming up this Thursday! Are you ready?

two children making valentines, by johnny_automatic at

Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently around the world. What do you know about Valentine’s Day in the US? Check yourself by taking this quiz!

Regarding Valentine’s Day in America …

  1. … do men and boys receive most of the chocolate?
  2. … do people often give presents to their loved ones?
  3. … do couples often go out to dinner together?
  4. … do many elementary school students give cards to all of their classmates?
  5. … do people only give cards to their romantic partners, and not to friends and family?
  6. … do restaurants offer special dinner menus?
  7. … do most people make their own chocolate to give as gifts?
  8. … does your boss expect you to give him or her a present?
  9. … do you get the day off?
  10. … is it the number one day for buying flowers?
  11. … is chocolate the most popular candy?
  12. … is there another holiday in March called White Day, where men give gifts to women?

Okay, ready?

Here are the answers!

  1. NO! Men can both give and receive chocolate, but women get more chocolate than men.
  2. YES! Jewelry is common, but it can be anything–books, plants, video games, art, gift certificates, a bicycle, or anything that your loved one will enjoy.
  3. YES! I’m planning to go to dinner with my husband.
  4. YES! In my school, each student decorated a shoebox or paperback for receiving valentines. Then, on Valentine’s Day, we had to bring a card for each classmate (so that no one would be sad). Some students also give out candy. Stores carry special cheap cards, which come in a box of 20 or more. These cards have images of cartoon characters like Pokemon and Spongebob, pop stars, sports stars, etc. Children sometimes make valentines using colored paper, stickers, etc.
  5. NO! Some people give cards to their partners and to their children, friends, family members, etc. It depends on the person.
  6. YES! These dinners are often very expensive. They are often a set price and include special extras like champagne, roses, and a special dessert.
  7. NO! Some people do, but almost all people just buy their candy. Popular brands include See’s, Joseph Schmidt, and Godiva. M&Ms and other ordinary brands have special colors and flavors, and very expensive chocolate shops make special candies, too.
  8. NO! Your boss will probably be shocked if you give him or her a gift, since this day is mostly for romance.
  9. NO! Almost no one has this day off, because it’s not a national holiday.
  10. YES! It’s considered a romantic gift. Traditionally, men give roses to the women they love, but there are many other choices depending on the people. Of course, it’s okay for women to give flowers to men, and same-sex couples to each other, etc.
  11. YES! A lot of chocolate is sold for Valentine’s Day, and you can buy special chocolates at all kinds of stores (even gas stations).
  12. NO! White Day was invented in Japan, as far as I know. It is not known or celebrated in American culture–there’s no need for it here since Valentine’s Day is for both men and women to give and receive presents.

How did you score? Did you learn anything new, or did you already know everything? Actually, there’s a lot more to know about Valentine’s Day, because it’s a very old holiday in Europe (where it comes from). In a few days, I’ll post some websites where you can learn more about Valentine’s Day.

P. S. Significant other is a way to refer to “wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner,” etc., without making any guesses about the relationship or the gender of the person. (After all, you often can’t tell by looking if someone is married, gay, etc.) For example, let’s imagine that I have two co-workers, Alice and Scott. If Alice works late every day and never takes a vacation, I might ask Scott this question: “Does Alice have a significant other? It seems like she’s always working, and she’s never mentioned anyone.”

Quick Tip: Check a Name’s Gender

Sometimes it’s important to know if a person is a man or a woman, just from his or her name. Julia, Julio, Ben, Beth, Hiram, Hillary, Abdul, Abril: which of these personal names are male and which are female?

silhouette of a boy and a girl, uploaded by johnny_automatic at

Americans probably learn which is which by exposure through books and by meeting people. However, I’ve noticed that many of my students and clients are often confused by these kinds of names in their textbooks and workplaces. There are a few rules of thumb, but they don’t work very well–for example, if a name is Latin-based, an “-a” ending is usually female and an “-o” ending is usually male. So, probably, Julia is a woman and Julio is a man. But that doesn’t work for Joshua, a common American male name originating in Hebrew.

Here are two quick ways you can check on a name–however, note that name creativity is part of American culture, so parents sometimes “break the rules” and give a girl a boy’s name or vice versa.

Method 1: Try the Baby Name Voyager! Click on “Launch Name Voyager,” then type in the name you’re interested in. You can see the popularity of names in the US over the last few decades, based on US Social Security Administration data. Names for females are pink, and names for boys are blue (I guess it’s sexist, but that’s the current tradition in the US). You can also see how closely related names are divided as you type–Juliet (female), Julian (male), Julia (female), Julio (male), etc. I think it’s fun to play with, and you can pick up some historical information this way–did you know that in the 1920s the Japanese name “Hiroshi” made it into the top 1000?

Method 2: If a name is more rare, you might not have any luck at the above site. In that case, you can try Google Images. If you check on my name, you’ll see nearly all women and girls in the photos. (You’ll get a few unrelated results, such as a picture of the actor Sean Bean from a TV production of the novel called Clarissa.) It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well. Actually, I do the same thing to check Chinese names sometimes, if I can’t tell from how it’s written.

If you have any other solutions to this problem, make sure to leave a comment.