How Did Valentine’s Day Make It to Germany?


German Valentines Day Customs

Compared to some other countries, it took Germans a while to get the hang of Valentine’s Day. With all those holidays already on hand, why wouldn’t the country embrace this one? And who wouldn’t like a holiday that’s all about romance and love?

Or maybe those serious, uptight Germans are just not romantic enough?

Not an apology, but history may have played one role in it:

During the Roman Empire, there were several Christian martyrs called Valentinus, in particular Valentin of Terni or Valentin of Viterbo. One of them in particular stood out. This guy didn’t necessarily comply with the rules of the Roman Empire. He performed weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He also ministered to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. Since both of those things were forbidden under penalty of death, the law finally caught up with him, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death. During his prison time, he even healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. Right before he was executed, he wrote her a farewell letter signed “Your Valentine”. In the year 469, Pope Gelasius I. from the Roman Church added February 14th as the day of commemoration to the Roman calendar. Legend says that this ‘initiated’ Valentine’s.

Valentine OriginesHowever, there is another part to this Love-bird holiday. The ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercus, god of the shepherds and fertility. During this festivity, a kind of ‘love raffle’ was performed that was supposed to bring young men and women together, falling in love with each other.

During the Middle Ages, the Brits picked up this custom again. Geoffrey Chaucer, an author and poet was to blame for the Valentine’s craze. He wrote a poem called: “The Parliament of Fowls”, which somehow prompted people to become love birds on February 14th. For example, the day before Valentine’s Day, the raffle determined couples who could make each other happy through giving each other small gifts the next day.

Based on that, the popular superstition was created that the first person of the other gender that one meets on Valentine’s Day will be true love. So, be careful who you meet first thing on that day!

Later British immigrants ‘exported’ this tradition to the USA, where it has become hugely popular. The Americans have always been great at marketing!

After WWII, American soldiers ‘reintroduced’ this holiday to West Germany again. This time, it caught on! In 1950, the first ‘Valentine’s Ball’ took place in Nuremberg.

Even the German flower and chocolate industry finally figured out that there is money to be made!

However, compared to our British and French neighbors, Germans still look like Valentine’s grouches.

43% of French people spend on average between €50.00 to over €100.00 for a Valentine’s gift. The Brits even spend between €26.00 and €100.00. However, Germans try to get by on the cheap and only spend about €10.00 to €25.00. These are the German cities with the highest average spent for gifts: München at € 51.79 Berlin at € 48.41 Köln € 43.60

The most popular Valentines gift in Germany is chocolate, followed by flowers and lingerie. Germans either opt for a romantic dinner at a restaurant or even dinner at home.

The singles in Germany hate Valentine’s Day: 56% of them can’t wait to get the day over with.

The rose is the most popular flower with about 1,000 tons sold on that day, followed by tulips and gerberas.

The other reason for the lacking popularity:

Mainz GermanyGermany is known to have an annual carnival season that lasts from November 11th to Ash Wednesday in February or even beginning of March. Carnival celebrations and parades are all over the country from Berlin to Cologne and Munich to Braunschweig. During its high-season, there are even special regional holidays to accommodate local celebrations.

So, Valentine’s Day often coincides with its high-season, and many Germans are just preoccupied with fun and silly carnival activities. In other words, it’s not that Germans aren’t romantic, they are quite busy with other fun things!