Valentine’s Day on 14 February is a day that makes the heart of every romantic beat faster. All over the world, couples express their affection with flowers, Valentine’s cards, home-made gifts and chocolates. However, each country has its own particular Valentine’s Day customs and traditions. But do you know where this day of love originated? Our article reveals its origins and offers romantic Valentine’s Day ideas from around the world.

Valentine’s Day: Origin and spread

There are various theories on how Valentine’s Day originated. One prevalent thesis is that the celebration dates back to Saint Valentine, a martyr who lived in Ancient Rome. It is said that he held Christian marriage ceremonies and worship services in violation of the laws of the Roman Empire, which led to his execution on 14 February 269 by Emperor Claudius II. 200 years later, Pope Gelasius declared this day St. Valentine’s Day. It was only much later that this ecclesiastical day of commemoration became the traditional day of romance we know today. In the 18th century, 14 February developed into a day on which suitors bestowed small gifts, chocolate and greeting cards to their beloved to woo for their favour. In 1969, Valentine’s Day was removed again from the General Roman Calendar.

There are also many other theories on how Valentine’s Day became the day of romance we know today. One thing is for sure, though: This day was not invented by florists.

Valentine’s Day in the USA

In the USA, Valentine’s Day is especially popular with youths and young adults. Valentine’s cards in particular play an important role, and the romantic messages are either signed or sent anonymously to the recipient of one’s affection. Other common Valentine’s Day gifts include chocolates, flowers and stuffed animals. But gifts are not bestowed only to fellow human beings on Valentine’s Day. In recent years, it has become a trend to also give tokens of affection to the beloved pet.

Valentine’s Day in Italy

In Italy too, Valentine’s Day brings out the romance in people. Apart from flowers and love letters, it is common to gift your loved one a “lucchetti dell’amore”. This is small padlock engraved with the sweethearts’ names. The padlock is then usually locked to a bridge and its key is thrown into the water by the couple – of course, only after wishes for a joint future have been made.

Valentine’s Day in Germany

Valentine’s Day only reached Germany after many detours: After English emigrants introduced Valentine’s Day to the USA, the romantic tradition was brought to Germany by US soldiers after the Second World War. Since then, 14 February is celebrated in a similar way to how it’s celebrated in Spain or France: Besides flowers, sweets and greeting cards are also commonly gifted.

Valentine’s Day in Japan

Although Valentine’s Day is generally associated with Western traditions, 14 February is also enormously popular with couples and romantics in far-off Japan. Here, Valentine’s Day was made known in 1936 by a sweets manufacturer. However, a translation error in the advertising campaign saw to it that until the 1970s only the women gifted the men chocolate – without receiving anything in return. In order to restore the balance, a confectioner conceived the so-called “White Day” in 1977. It takes place one month after Valentine’s Day and gives men the opportunity to thank the women with chocolate for the presents received on Valentine’s Day.

by Engel & Völkers