Today is the eve of Valentine’s Day and I have yet to see any Valentine’s Day hearts and kisses, flowers of red, white and pink in the windows of shops and restaurants. Why is that you might ask? Well there is a reasonable explanation for this.
Not until after the Second World War, did Valentine’s Day really start to make its way to Germany. Just like Halloween, it’s mostly considered a commercialized American holiday. It was brought over when American soldiers brought their traditions to Europe. It has been traditionally celebrated in English-speaking countries and in France (naturally, the land of loooove)
There is a little German folklore story which is really interesting.
Valentine’s Day folklore bristles in this land of bravery. There are stories about the bravery of love, knitted together with the day. One story goes, there was a peasant revolt led by Duke Welf against King Conrad 3. The King had agreat army which threw the Duke’s fighters away. As a result, peasants found themselves under siege. Lady Elizabeth, the wife of the Duke requested the king to let her and the other wives leave the castle with whatever they could carry on their backs. The King agreed but got surprised to see them carry their husbands on their back on that Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is a clear sign of how frivolous we can be with spending our money on flowers and chocolates, while in Germany it is really only celebrated among the young adults. You will not see little children making special Valentine’s Day cards and having secret admirers. No German child will know that dreadful pain of not receiving a Valentine’s Day card nor know the joy of having more than one secret admirer.
You can find some stores selling a small section of Valentine’s Day related gifts, but not a whole 5 aisles like in Target in the US. Good luck finding a heart shaped balloon. I tried looking last year, since it was my first official Valentine’s Day with someone I truly loved. I wanted to go all out, only to be a little disappointed at my options.
There is a twist, however, on Valentine’s Day for Germans. A little pig laying down flowers has two symbolic meanings: luck and lust. This is perhaps not everywhere in Germany, but it is common in some areas. Contrary to belief, Germans are quite romantic, after all they are considered the “land of poets and thinkers”. Although you wont find Mr. Cupid flying around with a bow and arrow ready to strike two people with love at any second.
You will however, see lots of traditional gingerbread hearts, which are also commonly seen at festivals and Christmas markets. Although, for Valentine’s Day they amp up the “I love yous” and “Du bist mein Schatzchen” (you are my little sweetheart).
For the most part though, being a holiday during the Fasching season, Valentine’s Day kind of gets overlooked in Germany and is just another normal day. I will still try to celebrate it as much as I can, but without all the super frivolous extras.
For more Valentine’s Day Suggestions in Europe:
All photos found via Google