Valentine’s Days Traditions Across Europe
(and the alternatives!)
February is the month of love across the world and many couples are busily planning romantic things to do with their better halves. Whether it is a moonlight stroll along Unter den Linden in Berlin, dinner for two at a heart warming French restaurant in London or visiting the romantic figure of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen; European cities are held to be some of the most romantic in the world.
Many countries in Europe celebrate the day in the usual way with cards, flowers and gifts of chocolates, but some have their own quirky traditions.
Valentine’s Day Traditions
In Denmark the traditional ‘Valentinsdag’ gift is pressed flowers especially white Snowdrops. Also as with many countries the Danes send cards or notes but the sender signs with a series of dots, one for each letter in their name which is called ‘gaekkebrev’ and the messages are often humorous and not overly romantic. If you guess who sent you the card they have to buy you an Easter egg!
Italians are well known for their passionate nature and so Valentine’s Day is a big deal there; a day especially for lovers. Often couples will announce their engagement to their families and friends on this day. In olden times young unmarried girls used to sit by their windows watching men go by on Valentine’s Day in the belief that the first man they see will be their husband within the year. A traditional gift in Italy are chocolate covered hazelnuts called ‘Baci Perugina’ in which has been concealed a slip of paper with a romantic message. I love you in Italian is ‘Ti amo’.
The Spanish go all out and give bunches of red roses to their paramours. In Barcelona you will be lucky and get two days to celebrate your love – in addition to Valentine’s Day there is St George’s Day. La Dia de Sant Jordi is Catalonia’s national day, celebrated on April 23 each year. Unusually, gentlemen buy their loved ones a book to honour this most gallant of saints, who was said to have saved a princess from a dragon.
In Scotland, as may be expected, there is a great party where single men and women get together. Couples are paired up by picking names out of a hat, which is not very romantic but can be good fun.
In England traditionally lovers composed romantic poems or songs for their beau’s; what could be more romantic than words of love penned by your other half?
However, if you are over all that romantic stuff and are travelling in Europe in February you will find many clubs and bars have singles nights or traffic light parties on Valentine’s Night to tone down all the hearts and flowers. Traffic light parties are a great way to break the ice; wear green to indicate ‘you are on the look out’ (or something like it), wear orange or yellow to say ‘maybe, baby’ and if you wear red this means a ‘no go!’.