Valentine’s Day European-Style from

2016_Valentines Day Hearts

The Feast of Saint Valentine (also called Saint Valentine’s Day or just Valentine’s Day) has its roots in the Catholic church. In fact, some believe that the holiday honors several saints named Valentinus. One such Valentinus was from Rome, where legend has it he performed weddings for soldiers. Because soldiers were not allowed to marry, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death by the Roman Empire. The story suggests the Saint wrote a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before he was executed. Interestingly, St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th is still an official feast day in the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

Since this day is celebrated on various dates in many parts of the world, you can guess that many European countries have their own special ways of celebrating the day of love. In western and central Europe, the day is celebrated much like it is in the US. Cards, gifts and chocolates are exchanged, sometimes at special meals. Here are some of the more special ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Europe:

Although started in Italy, the Saint Valentine’s key, a metal key charm given as a gift to one’s object of desire so they can “unlock the giver’s heart,” is popular in many countries. Don’t forget Valentine’s Day is the second-biggest card-sending occasion after Christmas.

In Italy, February 14th is completely for lovers. Cards, gifts and treats are only shared with your romantic love. In the old days, it was a custom that we have written about before, where unmarried girls wake up early that day and stand by the window to see the first man who walks by, and he would marry her within the year. A popular gift today is a chocolate-covered hazelnut that include a slip of paper with a romantic quote in 4 languages.

If you are in Denmark, you send pressed snowdrops to both friends and lovers. Danes also like to mail ‘joking letters’ that rhyme and are signed with dots in code. The recipient’s task is to crack the code and figure out who sent the letter.

In Scotland, it’s a festival, where single people get together and pair up by picking names out of a hat. Drinking and dancing ensue.

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