If I were in France on Valentine's Day would I experience the day differently?
Well, Yes and No!
YES, I'd be in France, and obviously, that would be amazingly different! And for a lover of all things French, it would be the realization of another personal dream come true.
NO, I'd still probably receive a sweet valentine "Carte de la Saint-Valentin or "cartes d'amities ;"
(Courtesy of Green Acres Cottage Etsy Shop)
beautiful Valentine's Day flowers "Fleurs Saint-Valentin;
and, in some form, indulge in chocolate "Bonbons le jour de valentine!"
(Courtesy Cali Bressan Website)
It isn't surprising that France, a country that for many immediately evokes images of romance, culture and beauty, celebrates Valentine's Day with the same "je ne sais quoi" that they do most special days.
The actual origin of Valentine's Day is not clear but can be traced back as far as 269 AD to several Christian martyrs with the surname "Valentine." Modern French history associates Valentine's Day with a custom that is believed to have started in the middle ages. At this time there was a popular belief that birds began to mate in the middle of the second month of the year. Folklore has it that people noticed this and selected this day to express their own love and began exchanging love "messages."
Another French custom associated with Valentine's Day is the custom of "drawing for love" or "une loterie d'amour." It seems odd that a custom like this actually occurred but "drawing for love" entailed single people of all ages entering homes that faced each other. They would then call out to the opposite sex in homes across from them and "pair up." If a man did not like the woman that he was paired with (or his "Valentine") he would simply leave her. (Talk about rejection!) The remaining or rebuked women would then build a large bonfire and burn images of the man who left them or any other man who had caused them romantic pain in the past. With the bonfire blazing the rejected women would hurl abusive words and curse at the men. Can you believe it! "Une loterie d'amour" was eventually stopped when the French government levied a decree officially banning the ritual.
Perhaps the French Valentine's Day custom that most can relate to is the sending of the Valentine's Day card or "cartes d'amities." Although Valentine's Day greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, written Valentines are not documented until the 15th century around 1415. This "first written valentine" was written as a poem in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. The Duke of Orleans was held prisoner in the Tower of London after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. During his imprisonment the young duke is said to have sent poems & love letters to his wife in France.
Charles, Duke of Orleans wrote to his wife this first "cartes d'amities,"
"Je suis desja d'amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée"
[I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine]
Au revoir, Mitty