Amidst the grey and rainy Dutch winter comes Valentine’s Day, with romance, red roses and pink hearts. What’s the origin of Valentine’s day and how to celebrate it in the Netherlands? Here are some tips.
Valentine’s Day origin
Valentine’s day originated in Europe seems to be a commonly held belief, but the details as to the origins of this day are somewhat obscure. Most people believe it is the day of the Roman priest St Valentinus, who lived in the Third Century after Christ. He looked after the elderly, the ill and needy, and legend has it, married Christians. This last act is what got Emperor Claudius II upset. He had the priest tortured and eventually he was beheaded on the 14th of February. Hence the day is known as Valentine’s day.
Two English eighteenth-century antiquarians have instead proposed that Valentine’s Day was created by priests and monks as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a feast honouring the god of fertility.
The oldest known Valentine’s note still in existence today is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
In Great Britain, Valentine’s day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. Friends and lovers exchanged notes as a token of their affection. It is believed that the tradition to write these cards anonymous started around this time in Victorian England, where direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged.
By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology.
The Netherlands started the tradition of sending Valentine’s cards very late, about ten years ago, which is much later than its surrounding countries. However, the first Valentine’s campaign took place in 1949, when the Dutch export of flowers was doing great but sales among the Dutch themselves was not. Hence the National Organisation for Florists proposed to introduce Valentine’s day or flower day in the Netherlands. To promote the day the organisation would award people who had done something exceptional for society with a bouquet of Valentine’s day flowers. This way the organisation hoped to give the day an extra ‘idealistic’ dimension and inspire others to do the same.
Indeed, in the Netherlands, the day was initially celebrated as a day of friendship, where special people or organisations were thanked with flowers for exceptional activities.
Valentijnsdag is a relatively new phenomenon in the Netherlands, only being celebrated since the mid-1990s as a result of a boom in the popularity of American culture. Now the Dutch send million of cards around this day. Lately small Valentine’s ads are popular, as well as greetings through the internet.
[Source: my heritage]
Valentine’s Day gifts
When it comes to Valentine’s gifts, the traditional ways to show off your sentimental side are with chocolate boxes and red roses. Both typical Dutch products.
Go to a supermarket of surf to the website of Tony’s Chocolonely where you can create a personalized wrapper for the one you love. Socially conscious, personal and delicious.
Every flower shop or stand has them. Marvellous and cheaper than in many other countries. Both Euroflorist and Topbloemen are florist networks where you can place orders that are then filled and delivered by a local re-seller near you.
Romantic “diner à deux”
What is more romantic than a having a candle light dinner together? Head to the Couverts website and make your choice.
Super romantic: a dinner cruise in Amsterdam.
Relaxing Spa day
If you’re looking for a more intimate gift, try booking a massage or relaxation day at one of the great spas throughout the Netherlands.
Movies and an eve out
Check the movies in Haarlem and buy an enormous pop corn box.
Netflix and a night in
Or break with tradition and think about getting your cuddle buddy a Netflix subscription.
Recently made available in the Netherlands, Netflix offers thousands of movies and television shows on-demand. Light those candles, grab a bottle of wine and get cosy on the couch with your favourite rom-com!
A Valentine’s escape
Take the opportunity to explore a new city: Leiden, Delft, Gouda, The Hague, Maastricht….
Happy Valentine’s Day!