La Saint-Valentin: Valentine’s Day in France

14th of February is a celebration of love in many countries all around the world. In some countries, like Spain or Finland, it is not just a celebration of romantic love, but also a celebration of friendship and generally people you love. With Paris being considered one of the most romantic cities in the world, City of Love some would say, France is of course also celebrating this special day. The origin of this day goes way back to the 3rd century Roman Empire: Emperor Claude II was so worried that his soldiers will prioritize families over wars, he forbade weddings throughout his Empire. A priest called Valentine decided, however, to break this law and was performing weddings secretly. Once the emperor learned what Valentine had been doing, he executed him. But it was not until the Middle Ages that a day of St. Valentine became a day to celebrate love.

Century and a half later, Valentine’s day is a popular holiday in many countries and France is one of them. A poll in 2022 showed that 71% of French people celebrate Valentine’s Day. An average amount spent on this day per person is fifty euros. Couples buy each other gifts and romantic dinners. Valentine cards are actually not that popular in France and it is not common to exchange them or gifts between friends or family members. Shop fronts and florists are decorated with roses, hearts and little Cupids. There is actually a village called Saint Valentin in Val de Loire region of France. The village holds several events dedicated to celebration of love, including marriage vow renewals.

However, the origin if Valentine’s Day in France is quite different and from nowadays’ perspective a little bit disturbing. Traditionally, the French followed “une loterie d’amour” - a custom seeing single men in France standing outside houses of single women calling out until eventually they paired off together. If a man was not particularly interested in his suitor, he would leave her. Single women that had not paired off got together and burnt images of the men that abandoned them. This ceremony was later on (and we can say fortunately) banned by the French government. Wherever you happen to find yourself on this day, we hope it’s a day as great any other for you!

-Dominika, thanks for your contribution!

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