German Valentine's Day Traditions

Valentine's Day Celebration in Germany
By David Jakupca

Americans know Valentine's Day as the occasion that replaces the Christmas merchandise at the local big box store. Its arrival is heralded by the Peptobismol-pink and red hues that displace the previous green and red decorations which sought to entice shoppers everywhere to join in on the buying frenzy we so euphemistically refer to as "Christmas Shopping."

Husbands know that not recognizing Valentine's Day with at least a card, preferably accompanied by candy and flowers, is tantamount to begging for a few nights on the couch.

Knowing that Valentine's Day is an occasion that is almost globally observed, it stands to reason that the modes of celebration are similar as well, or aren't they?

When In Germany...

Valentine's Day is not as seriously observed as it is in the States; as a matter of fact, the celebration of Valentine's Day has gained popularity only in recent decades, namely after the end of World War II. While it was previously celebrated by some, the end of the war (and with it the friendly relationship with American soldiers) added to the growing esteem Germans were developing for this holiday.

Think Red

Red is the color for love, and Germany is no exception. Red roses (rote Rosen) are the symbol of love for Germans, so be sure to buy a dozen or two!

Think Hearts

Silhouettes (Scherenschnitte) are another popular mode of celebration, especially among children. They love to create circles of hearts for their parents or classmates.

Folklore Rules!

Valentine's Day folklore abounds in Germany. In Bavaria, the story goes, Duke Welf led a peasant revolt against King Konrad III. Needless to say, the Duke's merry men were not able to overcome the King and his army, and soon the peasants found themselves under siege.

Ready to give up, Lady Elizabeth (the Duke's wife) implored the King to let her and the other wives leave the castle with whatever they could carry on their backs. The King agreed and on Valentine's Day he saw a long line of wives leaving the castle...with their husbands on their backs!

("The Faithful Wives" from the book Clever Folk: Tales of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder pp. 5-6.) by Sylvia Cochran)

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