As you get to know French culture better, you might wonder what the customs and history of French Valentine's Day are. Actually, you might be surprised to find out that Valentine's Day might possibly have started in France.
To some it will be no surprise that a country regarded as one of the most romantic in the world (France) should have invented Valentine's Day. On the other hand, the history of the holiday is not clear enough to say with certainty that the holiday originated in France.
History of French Valentine's Day
There are two reasons why many people link Valentine's Day with France. One is that it was commonly known, in both England and France, that birds and other animals paired off and mated 'in the middle of February'. Coincidence? Most likely not, since February 14 is exactly the middle of February. It is thought that people began celebrating this as the special day for lovers because of this association with 'love' in nature.
In addition, a Frenchman, the Duke of Orléans, is thought to have written the first love letters that later became Valentine's Day cards. The Duke of Orléans, Charles, was captured in 1415 and taken as a prisoner to London; while imprisoned in the Tower, he is thought to have written love letters to his wife back in France. These are thought to be what became cartes d'amitiés, now known as French Valentine's Day cards.
In France, in the department of Indre (Central France), there is a village called St-Valentin. Although nobody really knows anymore who St. Valentine was historically, there's no doubt that the village of St-Valentin has capitalized on its name and marketed itself as le village des amoureux! Of course, with a name like that, one can't help but make the association.
Each year in the Village of St-Valentin, there's a celebration on the weekend closest to Valentine's Day. Not only do the locals grasp the chance to celebrate the patron saint of their city, but travelers arrive from all over France for a romantic weekend or even to renew their wedding vows in what they deem to be an appropriate location. Indeed, mid-February is an ideal time of the year to get away and celebrate love, and this town in France has built a booming tourist business based on their name.
Create a Valentines Day à la française
Looking for a new way to celebrate Valentine's Day? Create a French theme for your special day and surprise your loved one with a French evening. Use the opportunity to try out a delicious French dessert, serve French bread and cheese between the dinner and your delectable dessert, and have some romantic French music playing in the background all evening. Don't forget to set the table in a French way, which is to say that the table should look like art: complete with a tablecloth, cloth napkins, a tasteful centerpiece, and an array of cutlery and glasses suitable for each course you will serve. Your valentine will never forget the year you made the most romantic day of the year even more romantic!