How do people celebrate February 14 in Germany? What is the history of this holiday? What is the usual gift and how much is the average German prepared to spend on a gift?
The passionate Italians, the more reserved Finns, Germans, and even the Japanese celebrate the most romantic holiday of all, Valentine’s Day, once a year. Do you know why people of different religions are against this holiday and how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Germany?
History of Valentine’s Day
The Feast of All Lovers, like love itself, is elusive. There are dozens of legends about its origins, but the most famous theory is associated with the name of the priest Valentin from the Italian city of Terni (Valentin von Terni).
According to the legend, the emperor Claudius II, who ruled the Roman Empire in the sixties of the III century, was not too humane person, but was promising in the military and strategic business. He once drew attention to the fact that wars that had families were not as selfless in service, and that they cared more about the welfare and prosperity of their kin. The emperor then declared a battle against marriage and forbade the legionaries to marry.
But human feelings took their toll: the warriors fell in love and continued to dream of families. But there was no one to marry them – the priests were also afraid to disobey the emperor – and the situation looked bad enough until the young clergyman Valentine of Terni decided to go against the will of the authorities in order to help the legionaries.
He made people happy and gave them the meaning of life and faith until the day when the emperor found out about his activities and ordered his execution.
In 1496, the Catholic Church recognized the priest’s merits, consecrated him a saint, and declared February 14 Valentine’s Day.
FACT: In the twentieth century, Valentine was dropped from the list of saints, as were many other Roman figures whose accounts are contradictory or unverified.
But it is worth noting that, despite this, the holiday entered the lives of hundreds of peoples not as a religious, but rather as a secular, so representatives of very different cultures and faiths congratulate their loved ones on this day.
Alternative legends of the holiday
Although it does not matter much why people choose to confess their feelings and affection on February 14, it is fair to say that Valentine of Terni is a person entangled in dozens of legends over the centuries. One legend even casts doubt on his existence.
A popular theory is that St. Valentine became the Christian equivalent of the pagan gods of love and the feasts in their honor. That is, the Catholic Church simply fabricated information about this character to strengthen its position, endowing him with heroism and the tragic fate that saint martyrs live.
Another hypothesis says that Valentine healed people and was executed not for helping legionaries, but for blasphemy.
In any case, for centuries now, young people have been waiting for the beginning of February to receive a valentine from someone dear to their hearts.
Sugar Heart and Notes from Valentine
Perhaps one of the most meaningful attributes of Valentine’s Day is a little paper heart with warm words and a signature.
The tradition of writing love notes originated in Europe in the Middle Ages. And touching little addresses containing only a couple of lines are still popular today.
There is a legend that the very first Valentine was written by the priest Valentine himself to his beloved before he was executed.
But officially, one of the oldest examples of “valentine’s card” is recognized as a message of the Duke of Orleans, which he sent to his wife from the Tower of London in the early XV century. It is now housed in a British museum.
But it’s not just the cardboard hearts we’re all familiar with that are associated with Valentine’s Day. Besides Valentine’s cards, lovers in Italy, for example, give chocolates and sweet compositions. All kinds of sugar gingerbread in the shape of a heart, candy, cakes are sent as a declaration of sincere sympathy. In America, where Valentine’s Day is widely celebrated, at the beginning of the last century it was a good tone to give candy with marzipan. At that time, the sweets with such stuffing forced lovers to pay a decent price. And in France they approach the holiday seriously, and give the loved one not some nice, but useless thing, but the jewelry.
There is no doubt that the Valentine’s Day – another professional holiday of florists, because to give the beloved flowers – is also a long tradition. For example, in Germany on this day traditionally presented a bouquet of 12 flowers. Each flower has its own subtle romantic hint. And even in our time we do not pay so much attention to details and ciphers, but in the past the whole secret correspondence was made of flowers.
Celebration and Religion
Until 1969, Valentine’s Day was an official holiday in the Catholic calendar, but after the reform it became a secular holiday. However, despite this, the holiday has not lost its popularity.
Today it is hard not to notice the television and Internet ads that motivate to congratulate a loved one, and it is not easy to cope with the influx of pink and red balloons, flowers, postcards, which are raining down on the eve of the holiday literally from every store.
FACT: Valentine’s Day is not marked on the calendar as a red day off, although no one can prohibit you from celebrating it. With a few religious exceptions.
No denomination treats the holiday of love positively. Paradoxically, in addition to Christian disapproval, there is also Buddhist tolerance and Islamic prohibition. Each denomination often has its own equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Because of this, the borrowed holiday is perceived by religion exclusively as a commercial move and an attempt to capitalize on people’s most sincere feelings.#
How the Germans started celebrating Valentine’s Day
If we accept the theory of Valentine of Terni, it is clear why Europe is considered the home of the holiday. Familiar in tradition and spirit, Valentine’s Day originated in medieval England, not Italy. British poets in their works immortalized the name of St. Valentine and the culture of displays of affection on this February day.
It’s worth noting that the holiday made an incredible circle on its way to Germany, crossing from island Europe to mainland Europe. It had to cross the ocean, take root in the United States and settle in Germany after World War II, along with American soldiers.
FACT: In 1950, the first Valentine’s Day ball was held in Nuremberg.
Der Tag der Liebenden
Whatever city festivities and balls are organized by the city, on this holiday they will be of interest only to those who have not yet found their soulmate.
FACT: Although Valentine’s Day is a holiday, it is so personal that most Germans who celebrate it prefer seclusion with the person they love.
According to German newspapers, most of the time you will meet couples for a candlelight dinner in restaurants and cinemas, or not meet them at all because the lovers will have their own celebration at home.
For free Germans, however, Valentine’s Day is another reason to have fun at a theme party in one of the city’s bars or at a fair in the city center.
Statistics on Valentine’s Day in Germany
Although Valentine’s Day is sometimes considered a marketing ploy to keep flower and souvenir sales up during the winter season, Germans take the holiday very seriously. According to a 2018 study published by Statista, 46% of German respondents were going to spend more than 30 euros on a gift for their significant other by Feb. 14.
At the same time, 48% of respondents chose flowers or candy as a gift, 31% chose to go to a restaurant, 18% were willing to show their talents and creativity and to make something with their own hands and only 14% chose jewelry.
Make love, not war
No matter how the state or religion feels about Valentine’s Day, there are fairly objective reasons why people in Europe, America and Asia continue to celebrate it. After all, it’s just another reason to remind your loved one how you feel about them.
That is why on February 14 all the big and small stores in Munich, Dresden, Berlin, London, Paris or Moscow will certainly be filled with romantic messages, with tips on where to spend this day, what to give to your loved one, and lovers from small to large will hurry to take the opportunity to open their hearts to someone.