Valentine's Day in Germany

Lots of Heart Shape Ginger Cookies, Germany

It's Valentine's Day in Germany!

And contrary to popular believes, Germans are actually quite romantic, specially when comes Valentine's Day (Valentinstag)!

On the other hand, unlike English speaking countries and France, they have not been celebrating it in a commercial way for very long time (more or less since after the W.W.II only).

The Valentines' Stories

Romantic Painting, Residenz, Munich, Germany

Most historians think that this celebration comes from the Romans' Lupercalia festival celebrating Spring and Fertility on the 15th of February, as for the Romans spring was starting in February about 7 weeks after the winter solstice. As part of the celebration, the girls would place their names in an urn and the boys would then choose a name out of the urn. The person thus chosen was the mate for a year.

Of course, this celebration, as with many others, came to the rest of Europe through the Romans invasions and their Empire. And, as the Church did not like much the idea of a Pagan festival being celebrated in the Christian world, it tried to "christianize" it. The Church changed the name from Lupercalia to Saint-Valentine or Valentinus, and decided that the celebration would be to commemorate Valentine's death (around 270 AD). It is actually difficult to know of which saint the church was referring to when they decided in 498 AD to make it a Christian celebration as there are still today three different martyred saints named Valentine or Valentinus recognized by the Catholic Church.

One of these saints was a priest who served under the Emperor Claudius II. When Claudius II decided to stop his soldiers from getting married (because single men made better soldiers), this Valentine thought that this wasn't good at all and decided to continue performing marriages in secret. When Claudius realized what was going on, he ordered Valentine to be executed.

Another Valentine was killed because he was helping Christians escape Roman prisons.

And finally, a third Valentine was a prisoner in a jail where he fell in love with the gaoler's daughter who was coming to visit him. He would have written to her a letter, the first ever Valentine card, before dying and sign it: From your Valentine. Which of course, is what we find nowadays on all cards!

However the true legend goes and who was the actual Valentine referred to by the Church, one thing is certain, these stories all speak of Love and are truly romantic. Not surprisingly, this saint, and his legend(s), was one of the most popular one in France and England during the Middle Ages.

Another important point is that in England as well as in France, people thought that the birds were choosing their mate on February 14th and that this was also a good day for young boys and girls to choose a mate as well.

Celebration in Germany

Flying Piggies, Bad Wimpfen, Germany

And so, the celebration of Valentine's Day as we know it today with the cards giving ritual and the little heart shaped gifts or chocolates, spread out from France and England to other countries such as Canada and USA. As mentioned earlier, this celebration is quite recent in Germany. It is thought to have started only after the second world war and it is really aimed towards adults only; no cute little heart shaped cards being given between kids at school. It is a strictly "mature subject".

As in all other countries celebrating it, you will find in German stores a full range of romantic paraphernalia; gifts and cards and chocolates specifically made for Valentine's Day. All in pink and red, of course!

But you will also find an interesting little German twist to these Valentine's objects: the addition of a pig! Thus, you can find little pigs offering flowers, or others laying down on chocolate hearts in rather provocative postures.

These little pigs are the symbol of luck but also of lust. Thus, for extra luck with the love one or the would be Valentine, there are some pigs holding a 4 leaves clover while climbing a little ladder on a heart.

Big Ginger Heart Cookies, Germany

Another important item of Valentine's day in Germany is the big ginger cookies, made in the shape of a heart and decorated with frosting. They usually have a few words written on them such as: meine Shatzi, Ich liebe dich, etc.

As Germany is much more liberal in matters of sex and erotica than North American countries, you will also find that some of these cookies have messages that are rather more "direct" as to the lover's intentions than your usual "I love you!"

You can find these cookies for sale in the Weihnachtsmarkt before Christmas too, but they are really popular at Valentine's day.

Romantic Hirschhorn Castle, Germany

And while you are in Germany, why not take the time to go to a romantic diner with your lover in one of its numerous castles?

Many of these beautiful old buildings have been renovated to accommodate guests, either for a night in a royal en-suite bedroom, or for an unforgettable meal in a romantic atmosphere that only soft candlelight can create.

Happy Valentine's! (They don't say that in German by the way!)

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