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Valentine's Day Around the World


Valentine’s Day is not just a celebration for those in the English speaking world. Cultures across the globe have found many differing ways to celebrate this special day. However different these celebrations maybe across many nations one thing remains constant in many of these cultures and that is the importance and symbolism of flowers. Flowers remain one of the most precious ways to say I love you and their beauty and fragility is held in high regard by so many differing and diverse nations. Here is just a snapshot of how different culture celebrate Valentine’s Day. Let’s take a little globe trot around the world starting with our native America.
In the United States Valentine’s Day is an important day for so many both east and west, north and south. The day is a heady mixture of celebrations, flowers and other gifts are readily sent but where did it all begin? How were declarations of love sent before the advent of chocolates flowers and in some cases email?

American Valentine History
Some believe its roots began in the giving and receiving of cards. There have been many varieties of cards given over the course of the years, many of which have often been rude or even quite cruel in their humor. During the Civil War, cards were decorated with rich colors accompanied by patriotic and sometimes political motifs. Early American Valentine cards were often very beautiful, some specially lithographed and hand-colored. Many were produced with intricate lace paper and decorated with such ornaments as beads, sea shells, cones, berries and differing types of seeds. Cards were also available decorated with seaweed or moss. Often dried or artificial flowers, were attached to a string which was pulled and could then be suspended, thereby creating a type of 3D card.
Cards still play an important part in US celebrations of Valentine’s but flowers have become a sacred part of the celebrations together with the gift of chocolate! With so many different floral arrangements from the single rose to the abundant bouquet Americans invests so much time, money and thought on this special day.
The Europeans celebrate Valentine’s Day in many different ways but the common theme of flowers remains throughout history to the present day,

British Bouquets
The poets of Britain have probably penned the majority of the best-loved romantic verses associated with love and Valentine’s Day. From William Shakespeare to Robert Burns poets and literary figures have played an important role in the celebration of love. Their words still have resonance today and are often used in full or abbreviated in cards or notes that accompany floral gifts to loved ones. The sending of cards and gifts of flowers and chocolates is standard procedure throughout Britain. Year on year the popularity of this day is gaining momentum and more flowers are given each year in the name of Saint Valentine!

The Danes and Saint Valentine
In Denmark, the Valentine card is known as a "lover's card." Historic versions of this card would be in the form of a transparency which, when held up to the light, depicted the image of a lover handing his beloved a gift. One custom in Denmark is for people to send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops to their friends. Danish men may also send a form of valentine known as a "joking letter". The sender of this letter also known as a ‘gaekkebrev’pens a rhyme but does not sign his name. Instead, he signs the message with dots...one dot for each letter in his name. If the lady who receives the card guesses the name of the sender, then she is rewarded with an Easter Egg later in the year.

France, flowers and fire!
In France, a custom known as "drawing for" occurred in the past. This custom would see unmarried individuals, both young and  old go into houses facing each other and begin calling out across from one window to another, pairing-off with the chosen partner. If the young man failed to be particularly enthralled with his valentine, he would desert her. As a result, a bonfire would be lit later where the ladies could burn images of the ungrateful sweetheart and verbally abuse him in a loud tone as the effigy burned. This ritual was eventually abandoned since it left much room for nastiness, ridicule or even outright malice and the French government finally handed-down a decree officially banning the custom. Elegant French greetings cards known as cartes d'amities, which contained tender messages, were given not totally as a Valentine but chiefly as a result of a fashion which was popular in England at the time. Flowers are more often used today to declare love in this one of the most romantic of European countries.

Romance and the Romans!
In Italy, Valentine's Day was once celebrated as a Spring Festival, held in the open air, where young people would gather in tree arbors or ornamental gardens to listen to music and the reading of poetry. Ah, how romantic! However, over the course of the years, this custom steadily ceased and has not now been celebrated for centuries. In Turin, it was formerly the custom for betrothed couples to announce their engagements on February 14. For several days ahead of time, the stores would be decorated and filled with all manner of bon-bons.

Roses and Spain
Although romance maybe dead for some in Italy this is not true of their Mediterranean cousins. Valentine’s Day in Spain is an important day of celebration. Here on this sunny isle it is customary for courting couples to exchange gifts on Valentine's Day and for husbands to send their wives bouquets of roses.

It seems that wherever you live across the world Valentine’s Day is celebrated in so many places in so many ways. What remains constant throughout is the universal language of flowers. From dried or pressed floral tributes in history to the variety of fresh floral blooms today it would seem that Valentine’s Day and flowers are synonymous with one another. Why not look to your loved one’s favourite flower this time of year to mark this important historical day denoting love, romance and passion.