Choose your side. Are you team “Valentine’s Day is an artificial holiday created is a holiday created by candy and card companies to sell more products?” Or are you team “Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year” and think of grandiose plans to spend the day? For me, I’m more of the former. I love romance but hate going to eat at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day because it feels so artificial. I am someone who believes every movie is a love story, but also tell Jordan about a month in advance, “we aren’t getting anything for Valentine’s Day… right?” Maybe I have found my home in France, as it feels like Valentine’s Day does not exist at all.
I know this may sound strange as one of Paris’s nicknames is “the city of love.” Tourists consider Paris as one of the most romantic cities to visit. Hollywood further perpetuates the idea. The Pont des Arts bridge in Paris is also famously known as the “love lock” bridge. This bridge is where people in love could place a lock along the bridge as a symbol of their eternal love. The city eventually removed all the love locks due to the structural integrity of the bridge. Hopefully, the couples didn’t read too much into it as the city broke their eternal love symbol.
In France, Valentine’s Day is simply called La Saint-Valentin. There’s no Galentine’s Day, and Palentine’s Day does not exist. Kids don’t bring cards and candy to school that their parents meticulously created from an idea they saw on Pinterest. Parents also don’t give their kids any gifts. It’s a mostly uncommercialized day for two adults in love to celebrate their love for each other.
Like Halloween, La Saint-Valentin has become more popular over time in France due to Hollywood and American pop culture. The holiday is not as heavily advertised or commercialized as in the United States. In America, I’ve seen Valentine’s Day candy in stores the week after Christmas. However, I don’t recall seeing aisles of candy or sweets in the French grocery store leading up to today. The French brands I follow on social media have not posted anything directly about the holiday. There’s no pressure from advertisements to buy extravagant gifts for a significant other. For the most part, it’s just another normal time of the year. Only Deliveroo, the meal delivery service app we use, has heavily advertised La Saint-Valentin. We get a free dessert with our dinner tonight!
France still celebrates Valentine’s Day even though the holiday is not commercialized. Historically, the French celebrated it in one bizarre way. There’s a now-banned tradition called une loterie d’amour, or “the love lottery.” If someone were single, they would go to a window that faced their neighbors. They would then call out the name of someone they hoped would love them back. The person could either reciprocate the feelings or deny their potential lover. If the recipient returned the emotions, the rest was history. But if the person objected, it could get messy. The situation could turn into a Mean Girls “burn book,” but with a massive bonfire cursing the person who denied them love. Maybe the government got banning this one right.
We will hopefully find out if Valentine’s Day in France is more prominent in a non-pandemic year. Restaurants have been closed since October, and the country is on a 6:00 pm lockdown. We spent the weekend in Meribel in a chalet whose sleeping options were a sofa bed or a three-deep bunk bed (however, Meribel was beautiful). France doesn’t feel very romantic right now. But for now, something is refreshing about living in a country that doesn’t over commercialize love!
So if you don’t feel like celebrating Valentine’s Day, just say you’re celebrating it like the French.