Your guide to the food and culture of the tropics


6 Ways Love is Celebrated Around the World

Love makes the world go round, but how you show that love varies greatly from place to place. While the Western world gets romantic with flowers and chocolates, other places show their feelings through dances, parades, and even cake. Many of these romantic customs have been ingrained in cultures and societies for hundreds of years, and are passed down from generation to generation.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here are some fun, beautiful, and romantic customs from the Tropics – expect lots of vibrant parties, national flowers, and good food.


Ladies Night in Niger

The ladies of the Wodaabe Fula tribe in Niger get the final say when it comes to love. At the Gerewol Festival, an annual event that revolves around romance and courtship, the men put their glad rags on in the hope of impressing the woman of their dreams. They don elaborate costumes and makeup before shaking their tail feathers and singing to bag themselves a bride.

When the show comes to a close, the women choose which dancer they’d like to pair up with. Many relationships and marriages are started this way – definitely a novel matchmaking ceremony.

(Photo Flickr Alfred Weidinger)

(Photo Flickr Alfred Weidinger)


Black Cake in the Caribbean

In the Caribbean, romance is tasty with black rum cake. Each island has its own recipe for creating the dark, sticky dessert that’s served up at weddings. Most often made with rum, cherry brandy, dried fruit and spices, this cake is very similar to Christmas cake (which it also doubles up as in the Caribbean).

This is an important part of a Caribbean wedding ceremony, as it showcases the traditional island flavours while the bride and groom cut the first slice together.


Lover’s Day in Brazil

Brazil’s Dia dos Namorados is an alternative to Valentine’s Day – it’s just celebrated on a different date. Usually observed on the 12th June, it brings a show of colour and music to towns and villages with parades, feasts, and live performances. Couples exchange flowers, chocolates, and other gifts, and share meals with family and friends. Traditional feijoada (black bean stew) is a firm favorite, as it’s easy to make and share. The celebration falls on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day, the patron saint of marriage, but it’s also a time to celebrate friendships and family relationships – something that makes it a little different to the all-romantic Valentine’s Day.  

  • 250g dried black beans
  • 100g streaky smoked bacon cut into slices
  • 500g pork ribs
  • 3 chorizo sausages
  • 500g pork shoulder cut into cubes
  • 3 chopped onions
  • 4 chopped garlic gloves
  • 1 pinch of chilli flakes
  • Olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Orange slices
  • Rice to serve
  1. Heat a large saucepan and fry the bacon until crisp. Once ready, remove and keep the oil in the pan.
  2. Start adding the pork ribs, the chorizo, and the pork shoulder, seasoning each batch with salt and pepper as you go
  3. When the meat is seared, remove and set aside.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, and chilli to the pan and fry until soft
  5. Add the meat, bay leaves, vinegar, and drained beans and cover with water. Bring it to the boil before simmering on a low heat and cooking for 2 hours.
  6. Serve with rice and orange slices

Feijoada (Photo Flickr Helder Ribeiro)

Feijoada (Photo Flickr Helder Ribeiro)


Mass Marriage in the Philippines

Though the Philippines tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the same way as Western countries, there is one slight difference – a tradition that’s spread like quick-fire through the country in recent years after it was started in 2004 by the government and a toothpaste company. On February 14th, hundreds of couples get married in joint ceremonies in places like malls, squares, and other public places. This new custom of celebrating love and renewing vows with thousands of others has been a huge hit, and there are now hundreds of mass wedding ceremonies that take place on Valentine’s Day each year.


Hoping and Wishing in Thailand

Single ladies in Thailand have a romantic tradition that takes place once a week, not once a year. On Thursdays, women looking for love head to the Trimurti shrine in the heart of Bangkok laden with red roses, candles, and incense sticks. At 9 o’clock they come together in front of the Hindu deity of love and pray for someone special to come into their lives.  

("Phra Trimurti and Christmas" by Mark Fischer - originally posted to Flickr as Phra Trimurti and Christmas. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons -

(“Phra Trimurti and Christmas” by Mark Fischer – originally posted to Flickr as Phra Trimurti and Christmas. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons –


Offering Orchids in Peru

Peru’s national Carnaval celebrations take place in February at the start of Christian Lent, which means many Peruvians have the 14th off work. Everywhere from big cities to hillside towns get into the party spirit with parades, feasts, and dances, including a tradition where a hollowed out tree is filled with presents to dance around. Having the day off means there is plenty of time for Peruvians to prepare something special for their loved ones, like Timpu, the traditional dish of the Carnaval.


  • 5 peeled potatoes
  • ½ kg yucca
  • 5 ears of corn
  • 2 carrots cut up into circles
  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • ¼ kg garbanzo beans
  • ½ kg beef
  • ½ kg mutton or lamb ribs
  • ¼ kg salted meat
  • ¼ kg white chuno
  • 1 cabbage head
  • ¼ kg rice
  • 3 pears
  • 50g leeks
  • 50g celery
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • 1 stem of oregano
  1. Bring 3L water to boil in a large pot and add celery, leeks, carrots, pears, chopped garlic, oregano, and salt to taste.
  2. Once the vegetables are soft, add the beef and the salted meat (both cut into pieces) and cook for an hour.
  3. While waiting, cook the rice in a dry pan with the garbanzo beans for 10 minutes.
  4. In another pot, cook the corn for about 20 minutes.
  5. When the meat is tender, add the peeled and chopped yucca to the stew, the potatoes and sweet potatoes, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cabbage leaves and boil for a few extra minutes.
  6. Once cooked, drain the broth into a big bowl and separate the veg and meat, and remove the pears.
  7. Serve up a bit of everything onto each plate, so everyone has an equal amount of meat and vegetables.

Written by

Lizzie is a freelance travel writer who spends her time between sunny Spain and not-so-sunny England. When she’s not exploring new cities or wandering through art galleries you can find her chatting about the freelancing life on Twitter (, Facebook (, and on her blog, Wanderful World ( Give her a cup of tea and a good view and she’ll be happy for hours.