La Saint-Valentin or Valentines Day has become a widespread commercial celebration across the western world in current times and normally revolves around the giving and hopefully receiving of cards and gifts such as flowers and chocolates to the one you love. Do any of you know where this strange tradition came from? Do you know how the French do it?
There are many different stories of the origin of where the Valentine tradition came from, some quite horrid, some a bit strange. The earliest known origin story of Valentine's Day is the Pagan holiday Lupercalia. It occurred during the middle of February for centuries and celebrated fertility. Men would strip naked and sacrifice a goat and a dog! The hides were then used to whip young women, how this promotes fertility I don't know.
The ancient Romans may also be responsible. Emperor Claudius II executed two men both named Valentine on Feb the 14th in different years in the 3rd century. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of Valentine's Day.
Another origin story and notably most popular is of Saint Valentine of Rome who was imprisoned for conducting weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. During his imprisonment, he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer, and before his execution, he left her a handwritten note signed 'Your Valentine'. The tradition developed from there and became associated with February the 14th and developed into what we know today.
What do the French do on Valentine's Day?
Traditionally the French celebrated Valentine's Day with 'une loterie d'amour'. This custom saw single people in France stand outside their homes calling for other singletons. A bit like olden times Tinder by the sound of things lol! They would then pair off. If the men were not particularly enamored with their new partner he would leave her. All the single ladies that were left would then start a fire and burn images of the men that had abandoned them.
This ceremony soon got out of hand and the French government banned it.
Following the ban, a much less dramatic celebration was organised whereby the French would send Valentine's greetings. the first recorded greeting was allegedly sent by the Duke of Orleans from his London imprisonment to his wife in France. It was said to contain love letters and poems.
Modern Valentines Day
Traditions have now changed and now mostly involve the giving of gifts such as my super cute digital portraits found here!. Florists in France make huge Sales in the lead up to Valentine's day mostly consisting of Roses. chocolate and jewelry are also very popular. Typically the French do not send cards at all on La Saint-Valentin and only give gifts to lovers, not friends or family so make sure you don't get confused about this it could be a little embarrassing.
However, you celebrate it whether, with flowers chocolates or just a hug, I hope you have a lovely day xxx
Some French Love Vocabulary
- L'Amour: Love
- Mon amour: My love.
- Mon cheri, ma cherie: Darling.
- Je t'aime: I am in love with you.
- Je l'aime: I am in love with him/her.