Do Germans celebrate Valentine’s Day?

by Adriana Stein
February 02, 2021
a German woman smiling at her phone at she plans how to spend Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is one of the major commercial holidays celebrated in countries like the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and France. It’s a day for grand gestures of love and expensive gifts, not just among romantic couples, but also among friends, relatives, and even among singletons.

But how about in Germany? How do they say “ich liebe dich” on this day?

While Valentine’s Day has made its way into the country, Germans tend to celebrate it in a more lowkey fashion.  

An overview on celebrating Valentine’s Day in Germany

How do Germans celebrate Valentine’s Day? Well…definitely not like the Americans, British, or French do – or at least, not yet.

While Valentine’s Day is relatively new in Germany, it’s slowly gaining popularity among the younger generations (and as am American expat in Germany, I wholeheartedly support this movement) 

The American roots of Valentine’s Day and the transition to Germany

In the US, Valentine’s Day is not just for romantic couples. As a child, I actually celebrated Valentine’s Day by giving handmade cards and buying chocolates for my grandparents, and at school, we would spend the day making cutout hearts for our classmates and teachers. As I grew older, I also started celebrating it with my friends and eventually, with romantic partners. 

Valentine’s Day is such a huge event in the US that when I moved to Germany, I was surprised to see how it’s not really a big deal here – a lot of people even find it a bit annoying that it’s celebrated at all.

But I soon came to understand how Valentine’s Day is much more associated with American culture. While Valentine’s Day is an ancient holiday originating from the 5th century, it seems to have entered the German culture only in the 1950s. British and American soldiers assigned in Germany were thought to have introduced the tradition, which slowly caught on over the next decades.

But even in the 1970s, the majority of Germans still didn’t know of Valentine’s Day. And only in 2015 did florists start to see a rise in bouquets sales on 14 February, with sales during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day becoming twice as high as any other week. 

So while most Germans may seem aloof about it, it looks like they’re starting to catch the craze. They’ve started giving flowers and chocolates to their romantic partners, but they’re definitely still a long way from how Americans celebrate it.

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Popular types of Valentine’s Day gifts

If you’re planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Germany, remember that it’s a lot not super widely celebrated, at least much less than in the US or UK.

In Germany, this holiday is reserved mostly for adults in romantic relationships. Unlike in the US, children don’t celebrate it by giving cards and chocolates to their classmates, friends, and relatives. People who are not in romantic relationships also often don’t go out of their way to celebrate it with their friends or by themselves.

Couples who do celebrate tend to spend money on experiences rather than expensive gifts. They get flowers from the local florist, buy a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine, go to a fancy restaurant, or even just take a romantic walk. In fact, most Germans surveyed about their plans for Valentine’s Day did say they plan to spend over EUR 30, so it seems to be growing in importance over time.

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The German cultural opposition to celebrating Valentine’s Day

While Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular days in other countries like the US, it hasn’t entirely caught on in the same manner in Germany. Most people regard it as just another day.

Those in relationships don’t always have extraordinary plans. So if you’re new to Germany as an expat (especially an American expat) and have a German partner, don’t be discouraged if they don’t go all out with roses and chocolates.

Furthermore, while singles in the US and other countries also find a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day (calling it Singles Awareness Day and Galentine’s Day, for example), single people in Germany don’t tend to think about it at all. When asked how they will celebrate Valentine’s Day, unattached Germans said they would spend it at work or by going jogging – they don’t really have any special plans.

So, yes, while Germans know of Valentine’s Day and romantic couples may even celebrate it, for many of them, it’s just another day. Personally however, I believe that with globalisation, the urge to celebrate will become stronger over time (a bit like how Halloween has also heavily grown in popularity over the last years). Only time will tell!

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