Valentine’s Day in Ireland

Roses are red,
Violets are blue…
Whether you’ve been waiting for it the whole year or find it an overrated commercial con, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! So in this week’s post, we want to take a closer look at this holiday’s history, traditions and, believe it or not, its connection to Ireland!

Saint Valentine – Facts & Legends

Flowers, candy, red hearts, and romance – that’s what first comes to mind when we hear about Valentine’s Day. In fact, very few people know who Saint Valentine was and why he became the patron saint of love.

So what’s the real story of the man behind the holiday? What we know is that he was a Roman priest who lived in the 3rd century – when the Catholic Church was persecuted by the Roman emperor Claudius. At the time, polygamy would have been much more popular than the idea that the Church was trying to encourage of a sacred marriage between one man and one woman. Legend says that Claudius believed that men committed to one woman would be less willing to go to war and so had a rule that prohibited the marriage of young people. It is believed that Saint Valentine still kept marrying people and was eventually caught and condemned to death.

The Irish Connection

What does Ireland have to do with all this you may ask. In 1836, Pope Gregory sent a gift to the Carmelite Church on Whitefriar Street, Dublin, in recognition of the work of Father John Spratt, who was widely recognized as a very holy man. It was a relic of Saint Valentine himself, along with ‘a small vessel tinged with his blood’.

This means that in Dublin you have the unique chance to visit Saint Valentine in person – it’s just a 15-minute walk from the school! And if you have already fallen head over heels in love and feel ready to tie the knot you can even get your wedding rings blessed beneath his shrine on February 14.

The Irish love-related traditions

Taking your other half to Saint Valentine himself is not the only way to sweep them off their feet on Valentine’s Day. We have chosen a few love-related Irish traditions you might want to know about when planning the perfect date with your soulmate.

Claddagh Rings

Surely you’ve seen them before in souvenir and Celtic jewellery shops. A Claddagh Ring is the perfect gift to show your Irish Valentine that you have a crush on them. The Claddagh Rings are traditionally given to loved ones, not only lovers but also good friends or family members. The ring’s design is a heart held by two hands with a crown on top. The heart symbolises love, the hands friendship and the crown loyalty. If you ever receive a Claddagh Ring as a gift, you should pay special attention to how you wear it. Follow these rules when putting it on:

  • On your right hand with the point of the heart toward your fingertips means that you’re single.
  • On your right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist means that you’re in a relationship.
  • On your left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips means that you’re engaged.
  • On your left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist means that you’re married.

Leap Day Proposals

Although not specific to Valentine’s Day itself, there is a strange romantic tradition common in Ireland. According to the legend, Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid made a deal saying that every four years on Leap Day (February 29), women propose to their Irish partners and not the other way around. What’s more, the tradition dictates that should a man refuse a woman’s proposal on a leap day he’s obliged to pay a penalty in form of a new gown, money, or 12 pairs of gloves. However, since 2019 is not a leap year, why not pop the question on Valentine’s Day instead?

Valentine’s Day Cards

In order to find out how big of a deal this holiday is for Irish people, we have asked our Irish teachers and staff members to tell us about some Valentine’s Day traditions in Ireland. While they mainly spoke about classy ideas present all over the world, like buying red roses, chocolate or taking their partner out for a meal, they also mentioned the tradition of sending anonymous Valentine’s Day Cards. So if there’s someone you fancy you might want to consider writing and sending a card! Not knowing who the card came from will surely have the recipient wondering for days!

Valentine’s Week at Atlas

Valentine’s Day is all about spreading love and this is why we never miss the opportunity to celebrate this day with our students! Make sure to check out our Facebook page and Instagram account and look for #AtlasLanguageSchool and #LovingAtlas in order to see what we’ve been up to!


Love-related Idioms and Vocabulary

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