We write songs about it, create game shows to help us find it, download apps to hopefully one day be lost in its spell. In a large and diverse world, we as a people are united by one thing: love. And it’s always been this way—just look at our centuries of traditions for proof. Below are nine rituals that show we’re all just fools for our hearts (and loins) and there’s not much we won’t do for the promise of amour.
1. Showing love with teeth
You wouldn’t necessarily look at a whale tooth and think of romance. But in Fiji, it serves as a symbol of the ultimate commitment. Known as a tabua (roughly translated to “sacred”), a groom and his family traditionally give a sperm whale’s tooth, which is associated with good luck, to the parents of his future wife when asking permission for her hand. Grooms often purchase these increasingly rare symbols before finding their prospective mate, to be ready when she finally comes along. Buying one also shows off the status of his family: One hefty tabua can cost in the realm of $1,000.
2. Leaving letters at the Casa di Giulietta
No matter that the balcony of this 13th-century palazzo is attributed to a fictional character and was added by the city centuries after the story of star-crossed lovers was written—visitors swear by the romantic pull of Verona’s Casa di Giulietta. People travel from all over the world to affix letters to Juliet on the building’s walls, but if you can’t make it in person, just send a note and it may get a response from a member of the volunteer group “Juliet Club.” (They receive about 50,000 letters annually.)
3. Visiting the Shinto Kanamara Matsuri, or Festival of the Steel Phallus
If you find yourself in Kawasaki on the first Sunday in April, be on the lookout for giant disembodied penises. Three, in fact, in a procession that is part of the Shinto Kanamara Matsuri, or Festival of the Steel Phallus, a religious affair rooted the history of the area’s Kanayama Shrine as a destination for couples to pray for fertility and marital harmony, and sex workers to pray to be rid of the STIs picked up on the job. Today, the festival promotes sex positivity and safe sex and is used as a fund-raiser for HIV research. It’s also a great spot to pick up some penis-shaped lollipops.
4. Leaving a letter in the Bridegroom Oak
Tinder not working out? Take a letter to Germany’s over 500-year-old Bräutigamseiche, or Bridegroom Oak. The story goes that when a daughter of a Dodau forester fell in love with a chocolatier from Leipzig, her father was less than enthused. Against his wishes, the couple met in secret and exchanged letters using a hole high in the tree as a mailbox. Eventually, her father caved and the couple wed under the same oak’s branches in 1891. Since then, lonely hearts have been inspired to leave letters in the hole for anyone to find, detailing their personal interests and including contact information. In 1927, the tree received its own mailing address because out-of-towners need love, too.
5. Taking a bath with Aphrodite
Although she was often worshipped by seafarers and those going to war, Aphrodite was primarily the Greek goddess of sex and fertility. Which is why the grotto where she is said to have bathed—and met Adonis—holds extra potency for those in need of a romantic boost. It is said that bathing in the pools will do multiple things: bestow eternal youth, help you find your lover, and/or restore your fertility. Sadly, the all-purpose pool is no longer available for full baths, but visitors are still able to dip their hands and feet, which should work out for at least one of the three promises.
6. Spreading love on a wall, inspired by John Lennon
John Lennon never actually visited Prague, but after his death, he became a hero of many young pacifists in the country. Since the 1980s, a wall in a secluded area near the French Embassy has been graffitied with art and loving Beatles lyrics, spreading messages of peace. It’s also a favorite of couples, who use it as a spot to declare their lasting love in marker ink—at least until it’s painted over by the next ones to visit.
7. Commiserating with Abélard and Héloise
Possibly one of the most romantic real-life stories is enshrined in Paris’s Lachaise Cemetery. Pierre Abélard, 12th-century theologian and scholar, couldn’t help but fall in love with his student Héloise, 22 years his junior, a passionate scholar in her own right and niece of Fulbert, the Canon of Notre-Dame. They married in secret and when Fulbert found out, he vowed to get rid off Abélard. To avoid punishment, they took vows as a monk and a nun and exchanged love letters until Abélard’s death. Visitors—many who despair in love—pay their respects by leaving their own letters near the tomb, some soaked with tears.
8. Making a wish at the nahil, or wish tree
In Turkey, the first week of May is marked by the Hidrellez festival, celebrated as the day when prophets Hizir and Ilyas met with each other on Earth. Revelers celebrate near sources of water, washing their faces and possessions for prosperity and health. And, like every good party, the celebrations are filled with food and music. In addition to jumping over fire, one practice involves a nahil, or wish tree, where couples write romantic wishes on colorful tags and affix them to the tree’s branches. Hizir is then believed to come down and grant those wishes, ensuring a plentiful spring.
9. Eating a four-leaf clover
We all know that finding a four-leaf clover is supposed to bring good luck. But what happens if you eat one? Tradition in Ireland says that if a single person looking for a spouse eats a four-leaf clover while thinking of the man or woman of their dreams, the one they covet will eventually be theirs. Another tradition dictates that if you place the clover in your shoe first thing in the morning, the first unmarried member of your desired sex you come across will be your future spouse. Both sound simple enough; the hard part is actually locating the clover. The chances, unfortunately, are 10,000 to one.