‘Joyeuse Saint Valentin!’, that’s how you say ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ in French. Many people look forward to celebrating this wonderful day of love and with this in mind, our Day Translations blog takes a deeper look at French Valentine’s Day Traditions.
There’s a common belief that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February because birds and other animals would pair together and mate. It was of particular importance that this mating season was at its peak around mid February. With this in mind, there is a strong belief that this is one of the reasons why Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14.
So not only is Valentine’s Day a time for celebrating love among human beings but it’s also the season of love within nature. We could say that this is indeed a natural occurrence. The French were definitely on to something when they made these observations.
And so with that being said let’s now get into the meat of the matter by exploring some French Valentine’s Day Traditions and unspoken rules that you should know about.
French Rules for Valentine’s Day
It’s always interesting to learn something new about other cultures and French culture has some very interesting practices that we believe you’ll find both fun and interesting at the same time.
Rule # 1 – Valentine’s Day is Only Celebrated by People in Love
If you’re single and in France for Valentine’s Day, you may be disappointed to know that it’s not guaranteed that you’ll receive anything for Valentine’s Day. This day of love in France is for ‘les amourex’ – those in love.
This therefore means that unlike the Western World that celebrates Valentine’s Day as a day to express love to anyone in your life, within French culture this is not so.
Rule # 2 – Gifts are Expected
On Valentine’s Day it is customary to shower the one you love with gifts. In France, it’s no different but be assured that there are very high expectations if you’re a couple, that gifts will be given or exchanged. So with this in mind, be sure to ramp up the ‘cadeaux, cartes et compliments’ which is French for ‘gifts, valentine’s day cards and complements’.
Rule # 3 – Valentine’s Day is a Holiday Best Celebrated in Person
This means that sending texts or writing and sending valentine’s day cards occur far less than you would expect. For the French, Valentine’s Day can be spent wining and dining, even a weekend getaway, attending events, or simply spending quality time together. Having a romantic meal together is usually the norm, and many restaurants offer a special menu to cater to this big deal event.
How the French Used to Celebrate Valentine’s Day
It was tradition for the French to celebrate Valentine’s Day with ‘une loterie d’amour’ which is French for ‘love lottery’. This love lottery was geared towards pairing single people together. This was a way of ensuring everyone could celebrate love and spend valentine’s day in a good fashion.
Single people would go around and stand outside of each other’s houses until they became lucky enough to be paired. The twist to this traditional practice however was that if the males did not find themselves being attracted to the female that they initially chose he would simply abandon her.
If a woman faced the reality of this valentine abandonment, it was time for drastic measures. She and other abandoned women made a fire to burn images of the men that left them. It was a somber way to celebrate valentines day!
This must have been very endearing for the women who did this. The French government stopped the valentines day practice because it started to get out of hand.
The true origins of celebrating valentine’s day also originate from a village called St Valentin. This is where Saint Valentine resided throughout the middle ages. Today, valentines day is a commercial celebration. It is renowned for romantic dinner dates, big sales for French florists, and of course, lots of chocolate!
French Love Vocabulary for La Saint Valentin – Happy Valentine’s Day!
French is known as the language of love right around the world. With this in mind, here are a few words and phrases from the French love vocabulary that you can use to express your love on Valentine’s Day.
- Joyeuse Saint Valentin – Happy Valentine’s Day
- Tu veux être mon valentin / ma valentine ? – Would you be my Valentine?
- Je t’aime – I love you
- Un amoureux / Une amoureuse – A sweetheart (male and female)
- Mon Chérie/ Ma Chérie/ Mon amour – My love/ my darling/ My dear etc…
- Un petit- ami/ Un petit-copain – A boyfriend
- Une Petite – amie/ Une petite-copine – A girlfriend
- Un mari/ Un époux– A husband
- Une Femme/ Une epouse – A wife
That’s a Wrap on Valentine’s Day Traditions in France!
Now you know a little bit more about how the French celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s something deeply engrained in French culture too. Next time you visit, you’ll be well aware of their customs and practices and fit right in.
Of course, don’t forget that when in France, you should do as the French do and with that being said, visit our website or download the Day Interpreting App to get started.