How do the British celebrate Valentine’s Day? Very Quietly.

Posted on February 12, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire

yahooavatar15Valentine’s Day in England. What could be done to celebrate and cheer up the atmosphere? Tonight at ASDA I was looking for some of those small Valentine’s Day Cards to give out to the kids I teach. An unidentified English informant said “OH NO. You cant do that. They are only for lovers. Child Safety will be all over you if you give kids Valentines!”

I typed into Google… “How do the British celebrate Valentine’s Day?”.

What came up first? Nudists can celebrate Valentine’s Day nude in pub

It didn’t take me too long to realize that a lack of definitive findings about what anyone in Britain really does on Valentine’s day seems to say that Brits celebrate it more quietly than America.

Well, unless you were alive sometime ago. According to this a website I found, in Great Britain on Valentine’s Day Eve, women used to pin four bay leaves to the corners of their pillow and eat eggs with salt replacing the removed yokes. They believed they would then dream of their future husbands.

Ok, that’s like, not what women do here anymore,  so where can I find out some more info?

So I decided to go right to the source: Mr. Chill, my English boyfriend. An interview:

Tell our readers a bit about you before we begin.

I am a Cumbrian in my late thirties, drive a Honda Civic and support Everton FC. I enjoy a fine single-malt whiskey on the night time.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

I do now having had my eyes widened and opened by an American lady who celebrates EVERYTHING! I think that Valentine’s day is something that Brits reluctantly do , something that HAS to be done as opposed to something that British men feel fantastic and wonderful about. In fact this is how Valentine’s day IS  in Britain, we just don’t do big heart-felt speeches like you Americans do. British people are so reserved and held back that it is an understated event. People keep most of what they feel hidden deep down and then let 10% go free for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day gifts sold online in the UK are HUGE.


Because British people feel strange going out and buying gifts– and if they are seen at Tesco’s it is embarrassing. You will see everyone looking left and right at the cards to see if anyone is looking at them. They want to get in and out FAST.

Does this mean my gift will be bought online?

That’s for me to know and you to wonder.

Anything else you want to tell people about Valentine’s Day in Britain?

That’s it. Oh and that everyone breathes a sigh of relief once the 15th arrives.

(So there you have it folks, words  straight from a British man– and of course, Happy Valentine’s Day!!)

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  3. j February 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I got an online bought gift too! By my husband had an excuse: he was out of the country on Valentine’s Day this year.

  4. Brunei Lifestyler February 20, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Wow…so romantic. Maybe the day set the mood hence the proposal. Bruneians, at least the local people like me dont celebrate VD. I cant remember what I did last Saturday.

  5. Julie February 18, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Oh, also I forgot to mention that he wants to get married in Birmingham (since he’s from Solihull), though I’m not really sure where since we both agreed on an outdoor wedding. We’ll see.

  6. Julie February 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Well, you told me to keep you updated… so here goes:

    The way he proposed was very simple because he was so nervous. He simply got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. He kept apologizing afterward for not saying more, but he was so nervous, and so was I! I don’t think I would have been able to handle a lengthy, mushy proposal. I can barely remember what he said because the second he started to propose, I think my brain melted. Besides, I think everything he does is perfect, though he often thinks otherwise. Are your guys as judgmental about themselves as mine is?

    We already picked out a date and the reason we managed to do it so quickly is because I have always wanted to get married in May, and I asked him whether he preferred Saturday or Sunday and he said Sunday, so we decided that the date will be Sunday 15th May 2011.

  7. peacefulyorkshire February 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

    In the interview on this post Mr. Chill mentioned that online gifts were a big business here in the UK for Valentine’s day. Sure enough a sweet little number arrived in my post box on the day…haha

    Also, Julie! Congrats! Keep us updated! You must let us in on how he asked!

  8. Julie (formerly just "J") February 14, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    My English boyfriend proposed to me today!!! My vocabulary is very limited today. Basically all I’ve been able to say is “oh my god” and “wow”.

  9. yankeebean February 14, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Nailed it! Although, I must be more British at heart because I’ve always down-played Valentine’s Day, too.

    I’m definitely an every-day-romance kind of girl…

  10. Iota February 13, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    This is my 3rd Valentine’s Day in the US, and I quite like it now. But it was a leap, first time round. We’d only been here a couple of months, and so everything was very new. The idea of children involved in all that lurve stuff was, frankly, creepy. I focused hard on the ‘friendship’ aspect.

    I remember some kind mom explaining what the kids had to do for it at school, and saying to her “you mean, I go to Wal-Mart, and I buy a pack of 32 Scooby Doo cards for $3.99, and my son sends them to everyone in his class, and comes home with a bag full of the same kind of card?”.

    Now I have a daughter of Valentinable age, I see it can be a bit different. She has loved making cards, baking heart-shaped cookies, wrapping them, etc. And of course it’s all an opportunity for pink. But you can imagine with two boys aged 6 and 9 when we first encountered Valentine’s Day here, it was something of a cross-cultural experience.

    I love your husband’s answers, by the way. He’s so right about that 10%. I think British men like to think they are more spontaneous, and don’t like to do romance to order. Whether they manage it in reality, I couldn’t possibly comment!

  11. Peter Bond February 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Your boyfriend is very wise. Yorkshire must be proud!

    In the UK Valentine day is very much for grown ups and for celebrating with the “one”. Babysitters, restaurant tables, and rooms in romantic hotels are at an absolute premium.

    Going into a shop and buying a bundle of valentines day cards might leave the shop assistant either wondering at your energy…..

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