France is one of the top honeymoon destinations and it’s not for nothing that Paris is nicknamed the City of Love! Our Valentine’s day which we call “La Saint Valentin” is mostly a celebration of love for couples more than for families and children. Here are some fun facts about its origins, traditions and the way we celebrate it.
ORIGINS OF VALENTINE’S DAY
Several explanations are given as to why Valentine’s day is celebrated on the 14th of February and how it began in France.
It is said that in the Middle Ages, the French and the English believed that birds began to mate mid February. At this time, young maidens would try and guess who their future husband would be. To see a sparrow on Valentine’s day was a sign of a happy wedding with a pauper, a robin meant marrying a sailor and a goldfinch, a wealthy gentleman!
The inhabitants of Lorraine, a historical and cultural North-East region of France have another story. They say that “La Saudée” is the ancestor of Valentine’s day. On the 14th of February, young men would gather together, form couples and publicly announce their engagement. To do so they would write on a list the name of the woman they loved and wished to make their “Valentine”. During the year that followed, they would make her gifts, most often cards and images made of paper or fabric. When a maiden was elected by several men, her suitors had to “plead their case” before a special court and convince the audience to be able to win the right to make presents to the lady of their choice!
FIRST VALENTINE’S CARDS
The French are also believed to have invented the first love letters. The duke of Orléans named Charles was made prisoner in London after the battle of Agincourt in 1415. While locked up in a tower, he wrote tender words and poems to his wife. He was thus given credit for the first Valentine’s cards…
As for the xxx or xoxo, considered as signs of love, it can be linked to the time when very few people were taught to write. Their only way of signing was to make a cross in the shape of an x. It was a symbol of faith and honesty. To swear an oath, this cross was kissed by the signer. It thus became an informal way of saying kisses at the end of a letter...
THE MOST ROMANTIC PLACES IN FRANCE
We are very proud to have a village named Saint Valentin after the saint patron of lovers. Located in the heart of the Loire valley, it is dedicated to love. It has a special “jardin des amoureux” (lover’s garden) with a willow of hearts, tree of vows and eternal heart tree! A dream place for a romantic getaway and perfect spot to propose in!
The Cupid letter box is also one of a kind!
Le Pont des Arts (bridge of arts) in Paris also had a longtime love tradition. Couples would attach padlocks to its railing and throw the keys into the river Seine as a promise of their eternal love. It became so popular that the huge amount of padlocks started endangering the structure of the bridge due to excessive weight! More than one million locks had to be removed in 2015! But to this day it remains associated with Parisian romance. Fully pedestrian, it is lovely to walk upon and admire both sides of the river.
CAKE D’AMOUR (Love cake)
One of our favorite fairy tales in France is Donkey Skin. Adapted into a musical by Jacques Demy, it is a timeless classic. To escape from the King, her father who wishes to marry her, the princess hides under a donkey skin and works as a pig keeper in the village. A prince spies on her in the woods and falls so deeply in love that he becomes sick! To restore him to health, the princess is asked to bake him a cake in which she will hide a ring! While cooking, she sings the recipe of “Le cake d’Amour”.