It’s Valentine’s Day, in case you haven’t noticed; not a festival that has a great or long tradition in Germany.
Not that Germans always live up to the stereotype of the cold, calculating Teuton who woos his beloved by convincing her that according to paragraph 4763.1, sub-paragraph 7, item B(iv) of the Cohabitation and Marriage Tax Allowance Calculation Tables Act of 1967 as amended by the 2004 Appendix 4c they would be better off by €1.64 per month if they lived together. Germans are in fact quite capable of romance, with sales of wine, chocolate and fluffy teddy-bears peaking noticeably in the first two weeks of February.
It’s just that where Valentine’s Day is concerned, they don’t seem to have quite got the hang of it, as proven in today’s local paper, which had a page dedicated to Valentine’s Day small ads. The majority, it is fair to say, had understood what was expected of them, with messages being addressed to “Liebling”, “Schatz” and “Schmusebär” (and if you don’t speak German, you probably don’t need me to tell you that these are all terms of endearment, which makes this parenthesis somewhat superfluous).
Some of the others, though, were slightly off the mark. I suppose it’s quite sweet that some messages were signed not just by the spouse, but the children as well. Not quite right — it’s romantic love, not family ties, we’re celebrating — but both German and English only have one word each for “love” to stand in for what the Greeks had something like forty-six words (or three, I can never quite remember), and we do hope that children love their parents (just not in a romantic way). All the same, the message addressed to an unidentified female and signed by two anonymous males does leave me with the burning question: was it written by her husband and son, or is it evidence of the most improbably romantic ménage à trois I have ever encountered? (Not, I hasten to add, that I have experienced very many. I haven’t experienced any first hand, at any rate.)
But in amongst all the gooey promises of undying love and eternal adoration, some of them employing multiple exclamation marks, I noticed at least three birthday greetings. Decorated with images of Cupid. Two of them were addressed to grandmothers; one to a grandfather.