Valentine’s Across Europe

January 31, 2015

Despite not being a holiday, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries across the world. The day has been celebrated on 14 February for centuries, but was not linked with romantic love until the 1300s, thanks to the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Since then, Valentine’s Day has gone on to become synonymous with love and romance. Love it or hate it, you certainly can’t avoid it once February rolls around! We’re all aware of British traditions on Valentine’s Day – cards, flowers, chocolate and wine – but other countries in Europe have their own traditions.

In Denmark, the traditional Valentine’s Day gift is pressed flowers, usually white snowdrops. The Danes also send Valentine’s cards, usually with humorous and ironic messages, rather than traditional romantic ones. They sign off with a dot for each letter of their name, and if you correctly guess who sent you the card then they have to buy you an Easter egg.

In Italy, the traditional gift is a chocolate-covered hazelnut, hidden in a slip of paper with a message written on it. Valentine’s Day is a big deal in Italy, and many couples choose to announce their engagement to their families on this night, helping to create a truly romantic occasion.

In Spain the traditional gift is a bunch of red roses, and a day similar to Valentine’s Day is celebrated for Dia Sant Jordi in Catalonia. Simiilarly, in Wales 25 January is a celebration day for lovers and is celebrated instead of or alongside 14 February. In Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day is about remembering your friends rather than lovers, and big groups of friends gather together to celebrate the day.

The clichéd “roses are red” poem which is prevalent throughout English and American Valentine’s celebrations dates back to around the 18th century, and can be found in print for the first time in Gammer Gurton’s Garland, a collection of nursery rhymes. It reads:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,

And Fortune said it shou’d be you

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