Valentine’s Day in France falls on the 14th of February, just like the rest of the world. It is known as la fête de Saint-Valentin or just la Saint-Valentin and despite being celebrated (or marked in someway) by around 70% of the adult population, it isn’t a big commercial affair. With only 8 days to go as I write this I’ve yet to see any displays in shops or general marketing for the day.
Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise as France celebrates many of the same holidays as elsewhere around the world, but often with less blatant commercialisation and a little more taste! There are many similarities between how Valentine’s Day in France is celebrated and Anglo countries such as UK, USA and Australia but some notable differences too.
Valentine’s Day in France for lovers
Valentine’s Day in France is a romantic day, a day to express your love, but here’s where one of the most striking differences occurs; it is really only for adults. I will also include teenage couples here, but what it isn’t for is children. Children do not make Valentine crafts and give gifts or cards to their parents, friends or teachers. Parents do not give cards or gifts to their kids.
Romantic couples express their love for each other by giving flowers or small presents, booking a romantic meal or even a weekend away but they do not send cards. That’s the other big difference. Card giving for any occasion is rare in France and Valentine’s Day is no exception. In fact card giving at Valentine’s Day rates lower than sending a text!
Valentine’s Day in France in person
According to research French people like to celebrate in person, not through the means of the written word and the most popular thing to do for Valentine’s Day in France is a weekend away, followed by a meal in a restaurant and giving flowers.
Chocolates come in at a surprising 9th place though looking in pâtisseries and chocolateries in mid February you’d be forgiven for thinking they were more important. Cake and chocolate shops are some of the only places you’re likely to see special displays of “romantic” creations. And flower shops of course.
Restaurants make a thing of the actual day and usually create a special menu or some form of romantic special offer on the 14th. But only on the day itself and not for several days either side. As an example here’s the menu from my favourite local restaurant in Roquefort les Pins.
While you can see that France, the country of love, does celebrate Valentine’s Day albeit in a less showy manner than in some countries, I’ve discovered 2 fun exceptions to this subtle approach and thought I’d share them with you.
Valentine’s Day in France, the exceptions
On Valentine’s Day in France, in Paris you can declare your love publicly on the massive electronic information billboards located around the city. You get 160 characters and have to fill in a form online on the Paris city website before 9th February to be in with a chance of having your message picked for display. If it is chosen then it’s displayed on all 170 billboards throughout Paris.
And right in the heart of France there’s a village called St Valentin which has effectively marketed itself as the capital of lurve le village des amoureux. People come from all over the world to renew their vows, declare their love, or get married in the town of St Valentin.
The 14th of February is a day of festivities with a special post office set up with a special stamp (for those who still send cards), chocolate-making demonstrations, jewellery, wedding dresses and other romantic items for sale.
There’s a blessing in the church, a lovers’ certificate-giving ceremony (!), festive romantic meals and a ball in the evening. St Valentin is twinned with a town in Japan and this fête is particularly popular with Japanese visitors.
For ideas of romantic things to do on the French Riviera take a look here and don’t forget that we love welcoming romantic couples to Lou Messugo gite at any time of the year!
What do you think of Valentine’s Day? Do you celebrate it? What do you think of France’s fête de Saint-Valentin?
Credit for St Valentin village photo Pierre Bona Creative Commons Wikimedia
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Totally missed the fact it was St Valentine’s yesterday!!! Did you get anything from your other half?
Wasn’t your Insta flooded with it? Hard to miss it on my socials. We don’t tend to give each other anything but if a fancy patisserie catches our eye or something along those lines we partake! I posted yesterday’s cake on Insta stories.
I’ve been so busy I’ve hardly not been on social media. Just catching up now.
How lovely to switch off from social media! I find that no matter how busy I am, even when I don’t have time to post, I still swipe through to check whether there’s anything going on that I should know about!
Usually I do but these last few days have been mad .. and to think we moved to France for the quiet life!
What a lovely display of flowers!
Well luckily I don’t think the UK has yet got quite as silly about this as the US but to me it seems like France is definitely the place to spend February 14th! I will let you know what happens here in South Africa after Sunday 🙂
This was a very interesting read. I love the fact that the French prefer to say things in person, even if it does challenge my English reserve somewhat…
We’ll be in France for Valentine’s Day this year – I have always disliked the commercial, over the top approach in England – so this sounds much more my style
St Valentin’s town, cool!:) We go somewhere for a meal and exchange chocolate gifts usually!:)
I just read about the electronic info billboards and though how fun that would be to slate a message to my husband. We’ve been married for 15 years this year; always looking for fun ways to spoil him!
I think that children giving valentines cards to adults must be a recent thing. I certainly never did that when I was young! Sounds as though you have the right idea over there in France.
Like Audrey Hepburn said “Paris is always a good idea”! I vote for Valentines Day in Paris any day of the year…
I always thought it was easier to celebrate Valentines in France – everything was already so romantic, even meeting the husband at a cafe or patisserie was decidedly more romantic than lunch in the States! Thanks for hosting the #AllAboutFrance linkup, I’m enjoying revisiting our time in France!
Here in Germany Valentine’s Day is also celebrated, but not everyone does it and it’s not sooo serious as in France, Canada and USA for example. I enjoy celebrating this day 😀 In Brazil we have something similar, but it in June, a bit weird I know 😀
Thank you for hosting #AllAboutFrance and congratulations again for 1 year of blog link up!!
Action speak louder than words – Valentine’s Day in France, no to cards! I kinda like the idea. :p
I didn’t know about the Paris message boards – that’s awesome! It’s like, I was sad Halloween wasn’t more popular in France, BUT, I was really happy that Valentine’s Day wasn’t at the same level as in the USA! It’s a trade-off! Never been a big Valentine’s person – was fun as a kid, then nerve-wracking as a young teen (because the weird guys who liked me would gift me things and it was just soooooo embarrassing), tried to enjoy it when dating in college, then finally married someone who disliked it as much as I did! It all worked out for my version of a happy ending. 🙂 I prefer more ironic Valentine’s Days when I’m off doing something interesting, as you can see from my linked post this month! This year: Berlin with friends! Great share, Phoebe!
Nice. I do like the French practice of celebrating Valentine’s Day only on THE DAY. The event seems truly special that way, not a day easily manipulated to accommodate long weekends or sales promotions that cause one to forget what the day is about altogether.
Yes, it’s true that the French aren’t big card givers, on any occasion. My French partner is amazed to find shops dedicated to cards when he comes to England – and visiting French friends here in France are often surprised by my shelf of Christmas cards or birthday cards. As for the village of St.Valentin: I’ll have to take my partner there to see if the romantic effect rubs off on him!
I’m not the biggest Valentine’s day supporter. Its nice I guess, but I haven’t had anyone to celebrate that day with in years so who knows. I do think France is a perfectly romantic place to celebrate it though!
we tend to not get each other present anymore but just cook a meal or make a card 🙂 I’d love to be in Paris though!
I think this is exactly how Valentines Day should be celebrated!
Traveling seems the best way to spend Valentine’s day…and what a better place than Paris to do so
And maybe it’s better that way! I remember back in Poland we never had those commercial displays of Christmas/Valentine’s Day etc. we celebrate it in less festive way whereas here in the UK everything is such a big deal, shop stock up for Christmas in October and since the beginning of Jan you can easily spot some Valentine Day displays.
wow packs bags and moves to France
Another occasion for bubbles and chocolaté, yum!
You and me too 🙂
The French… they just know don’t they! We suck in the UK!
Sounds like the French are doing to right, ‘holidays’ like Valentines day are just becoming more commercial by the year here xx
Oh, who needs cards when they can have flowers and chocolate :-)?
I love making cards! My grandmother-in-law lives in Spain and finds it hard to buy cards there. I expect the few shop displays are far more tasteful than in the UK!
Phoebe, What a great idea! Everyone thinks of France as a “loving” country! I need to head to St. Valentin…very cool. Thanks, once again, for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!
If you can’t be romantic in Paris where can you be romantic? 🙂
We do celebrate where I live and my husband usually buys me chocolates or cooks a meal.
We don’t really celebrate Valentines Day – I don’t need just one day a year to show my hubby that I love him!
Thanks Catherine 🙂
Say it like it is Richard!
Rhonda, how can you not be a fan of France?!!
Rosie, it was Pinterest (and blog posts on link-ups) that made me realise just how huge it’s got in UK and USA too. Non-stop valentine’s craft! (Driving me a little insane…..shhh shouldn’t say so but….!)
I love the way in the same breath, France can make Valentine’s Day a very low key affair and then yell about it from the billboards!! I hadn’t really realised how big the whole thing had become in the UK with crafts etc …. but my Pinterest feed brought that to my attention. Glad I’m in France then!
I am neither a fan of Valentines Day, nor France, but through your eyes both look amazing. Thanks for joining in at #wkendtravelinspiration.
When I first moved here in 1990 there was absolutely no commercial communication about Valentine’s Day. Now I think there is some, especially restaurant menus and a little advertising in jewelry shops, for example. I just went to my favorite “caviste” yesterday and he said they had been really busy with Valentine’s Day gifts — mainly women buying men whisky, cognac, or excellent bottles of wine.
I think Valentines day is too commercialised over here and we don’t celebrate it at all. France has got it right!
Valentine’s Day has become very commercial in UK with the cost of flowers and restaurant meals etc. all at double the cost. We should not have to wait until Valentine’s day to tell our loved ones that we love them.
We celebrate it here in the same way more or less although is not as spread as in other countries. Beautiful though the most beautiful way to celebrate love is to do it in person.
We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s day because it’s so commercialised in the UK. It sounds much nicer in France.
We do valentine, but in a very home made way! I get the boys a small bar of chocolate each, just as my dad did for me!
I would absolutely love to spend Valentines in France. The only time I’ve been is to go to Disney Land – maybe one day it must be so Romantic.
Thanks for sharing lovely.
I quite like the idea that they don’t commercialise it like we do here, it seems that every shop window has some reference to Valentine’s Day – from cards, expensive flowers and lots of chocolates
That is a lovely post. You are right, I don’t remember ever seeing the shops full of Valentine’s Day ‘stuff’ when I lived in France. I suppose people just wish each other ‘une joyeuse Saint Valentin’ and have a nice meal (at home in our case!). You might get a small present, but that’s as far as it gets. Beautiful photo of the sunset. Fab colours and I love the focus on the foliage.
Good for the French! Valentine’s Day in the UK is now just yet another opportunity for the dissemination of tasteless tat, along with Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, Great-Grandmas’ Day, You-Name-It Day.
Perhaps the two exceptions are so way out there is no need for anything else. Though of course not all people live in Paris. Here where we live absolutely nothing happens. Not surprising really given the average age of the occupants. Happy valentines to you and JF.