Being home to some of the most romantic countries in the world, it’s no wonder that the celebration of love on Valentine’s Day has spread throughout Europe. While some European celebrations closely emulate the holiday’s culture in the U.S., others have also taken on their own unique interpretations of the holiday.
In France, for instance, “La Saint Valentin” is celebrated exclusively by lovers and usually adults. They will often exchange small gifts and share a romantic dinner or weekend getaway. After all, France includes Paris, the renowned “City of Love,” making it a common destination for tourists near Valentine’s Day. French teacher Laura Lizundia believes this is due to both France’s landscape and language. “Everywhere you go is quite beautiful in its own way,” she said. “Also, people associate the language—how it sounds—as being quite pretty, and I don’t deny that. It is a beautiful language.”
While Valentine’s Day was popularized in France and England around the Middle Ages, “Valentinstag” didn’t reach Germany until after World War II, when American soldiers stationed there brought their traditions. According to junior Ella Brueser, who moved from Germany this semester, the holiday in Germany is similar to France in that it is not as huge of a celebration as in America and consists of majoritively adult participation. “At school, we can buy flowers and give them to the people we like, but in general, we don’t really celebrate it,” she said. “We don’t have a Valentine’s Day dance, and in the supermarket, we don’t have a Valentine’s Day section.”
Not all European countries confine Valentine’s to only lovers. Feb. 14 marks Friend’s Day in Finland and Estonia, a celebration of platonic love. Popularized among schoolchildren in the 1980s and spread to adults in the 1990s, this tradition is relatively new, though it gained much popularity in recent years. While couples still enjoy this day together, it’s common to see friends of all ages celebrating as well with shared meals, sporting event attendance, sauna sessions, gift-exchanges and card-giving. In Estonia, singles are invited to ride a special “love bus” to find a potential match.