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I’ve always found it interesting how customs and traditions vary from country to country. This made me think, well, how about Valentine’s Day? How do the French proclaim their love in the most romantic place on Earth? Even if you’re not backpacking overseas, you may want to celebrate as if you are. Below are a few ways and ideas of what to buy and where to go.

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Who was Valentine?

There wasn’t just one Valentine. Depending on where you look, Valentine’s Day is named after a Roman Catholic Saint: a priest who was beheaded in the 1400s for helping couples wed. The name Valentine has a Latin meaning: worthy, strong, or powerful . But my favorite story is of a prisoner, the first saint to supposedly send a Valentine’s card; he fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and sent her a message of affection, signed “From Your Valentine” .

Celebrate with the Italian

It’s only right to start with Italy; Rome is where the origin of Valentine’s Day began. If you’re in Italy on Feb 14, or want to treat your loved one as if you are, here’s how the Italians celebrate La Festa Degli Innamorati. Much like Americans, flowers and chocolates are exchanged. One chocolate in particular, a special edition of Baci chocolate candy (Baci the Italian word for kisses), is made with a sweet liquid cherry in the center. The chocolate is wrapped with a red wrapper, and on the inside of the wrapper is a romantic phrase. And if you don’t like the cherry center, then they have many other chocolates to choose from.

A Love Lock is an affectionate way to celebrate. You may have seen this tradition displayed on movies or in books. It’s one where couples bring a padlock, passionately nicknamed a Love Lock, and then attach it to the railing of a bridge. Afterwards, the key is thrown away as an adoring symbol of everlasting love. Padlocks are easy to find, and you can purchase your very own engraved Lock from this Brooklyn based company: makelovelocks.com.

Verona is the city where the story of Romeo and Juliet occurred, and a place that tops my list of Valentine’s Day getaways. Many celebrations occur, as well as a special contest for the most beautiful letter written to Juliet the previous year. Couples can access Juliet’s house and other monuments and museums in Verona paying only one ticket. Plays, concerts, dance and art events take place in the streets, squares, palaces…..

Celebrate with the English

The custom of sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts originated in the UK.

One thing that’s a widespread tradition in England is the singing of love ballads and verse writing. Children sing songs, and in return they receive gifts of candy and fruit. Lovers write sonnets declaring their passion for each other. For inspiration from renowned British poets, click here. Basically, it’s a huge singing fest of romance.

February 14 also marks the moment many recognize as the start of spring, which is also a time when birds find their mates. This notion led to the reasoning that unmarried girls can find their “mates” too; of course, the idea is from a really old tradition.

Since it’s the start of spring, it’s an electrifying occasion all around. People are happy, saying goodbye to the cold and welcoming the flowers and birds.  Buns sprinkled with caraway seeds, plums, and raisins are baked and shared.

Celebrate with the French

A tradition of Love Locks that started in Italy also spread to other parts of the world. One of which is a bridge in Paris, HOWEVER, this practice caused issues with the railings. Pieces of it fell due to enormous amounts of weight from these Locks. And the citizens don’t want their bridge ruined, as such, sections have been removed. Rather than attaching Love Locks, it’s encouraged to capture selfies on the bridge instead.

Much like in England, the French began celebrating Valentine’s in February due to the start of springtime: a season when animals begin pairing off and mating. A practice that was banned by the government was an old tradition where single women held bonfires. At these fires, they would toss in images of the men that had scorned them. Needless to say, it got out of hand, and was eventually banned. But if fires aren’t banned in your area, then you can crumble up an image of an ex and throw it in a campfire.

In France, you won’t see children celebrating Valentine’s Day like you would in the States; it’s a special occasion held for boyfriends and husbands to dole out love. A French city that’s a must-visit is le village des amoureux, which literally means Village of St. Valentine. The main celebration occurs on the weekend nearest Valentine’s Day. For many weeks, the people decorate their houses with floral lining.

Celebrate with the Germans

A popular food that’s shared on Valentine’s Day is a decorated gingerbread cookie. It’s lined with icing and sprinkles and words of affection. Valentine’s celebrations didn’t start in Germany until the latter half of the twentieth century, and is still a relatively new custom.

You won’t find children exchanging cards and sweets. This day is reserved for adults only. A unique tradition that was started here, and isn’t found in many other places, is the addition of a pig. Pigs are considered lucky and also a symbol of lust. Ornamental pigs can be found in many stores and are usually given as gifts, or added as decor to candies, cookies and cards.

Valentine’s Day

There’re many ideas and traditional gifts to pick for Valentine’s Day. Personally, I love chocolate, so as long as there’s dark chocolate involved, I’m game. And don’t forget the wine. I wonder if Juliet’s Club will post the winning letter on their website? Maybe I’ll purchase a special handmade pendent minted in copper, add a lustful pig on my mantle, and order a Love Lock. How will you celebrate?

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