Formerly the word Valentine intended someone whose name was picked from a box to be chosen as your sweetheart up in anticipation of the 1500's. Then around 1533, it meant the creased piece of paper with the sweetheart's name on it. By 1610 it then became the gift given to these elite someone and by 1824 it then became a poem, note or verse to a sweetheart.
Although Valentine's Day is renowned on February 14 every year, it instigates from the Roman celebration called Lupercalia, which was held on February 15, a fertility festival.
Roman armies invaded countries physically as well as socially. When the Romans invaded France, they introduced this festival in which Roman boys drew names of Roman girls out of an urn and then the couple exchanged gifts on the festival's day. This was measured a pagan celebration, so in 469 C.E., Pope Gelasius determined to put a Christian spin on this celebration by declaring that it was now to honor St. Valentine.
Another story goes like this. A man named Valentine witnessed to his jailor and ended up converting his entire family to Christianity. The jailor also had a blind daughter, Julia that Valentine ended up falling in love with. But love did not prevail. On the morning of Valentine's execution, he sent a message to the daughter signed, "From your Valentine."
Italy also had another spring festival during the middle Ages in which young singles gathered in the gardens to listen to love poetry and romantic music. Afterward they paired off and strolled through the trees and flowers etc. In France this pairing-off custom went on for a while, but it ended up causing a lot of jealousies and became more trouble than it was worth and was dropped. But in England the custom of young men drawing names for "Valentines" or sweethearts remained for centuries even after the Roman occupation ended. The young men in England would write down all the names of the young women on pieces of paper and then roll them up tightly and put them in a bowl. The young men would take turns drawn a name from the bowl. The girl's name that he drew meant that she would be his "valentine" for the next year. I might add: Wouldn't a guy's handwriting give away who wrote whose name on this paper? So I wondered how many guys actually drew the name of the girl they submitted.
Roman Catholic Church did their best to try to ban this pagan fertility/mating festival. However, it remained popular in the hearts of the people and so they finally decided that it was hopeless to get rid of it. Thus they decided to redefine it as a Christian Saint Day of St. Valentine as I mentioned above. And so in 1660 Charles II officially restored Valentine's Day into England's society. And it is due to this that Great Britain is the country who is given credit for starting the printing of greeting cards, especially those expressing love, admiration, infatuation and other emotions.
St. Valentine's Day did not come to America until 1629 with the Puritans and even here went against some of the church elders. But love prevails, whether openly or publically and the church could not hold back love and passion even in the New World. About 100 years passed before the first Valentine Cards appeared in the United States.
Margery Brews wrote the oldest known valentine in letter from dated 1477, sent to John Paston. For Valentine once meant "sweetheart" it grew to represent "message of love."
On 2-14-1667, Samuel Pepys in his diary described a kind of valentine that he got from his wife. It was a sheet of blue paper in which her name was written in gold letters. This became the forerunner of later valentines. But the custom didn't grow quickly. It took 100 years before it was common to leave a valentine love letter at the doorstep of your sweetheart.
As I said above, although the Catholic Church was not thrilled with Valentines per se, the custom slowly began to grow also in Catholic countries. Surprisingly, the Valentines were made by the nuns, appearing really lacy and decorated with hand-painted flowers with the center not cupid but often a saint or a sacred religious-styled heart.
- Hearts and Arrows
- Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve?
- Valentine Cards
- Daisies, Violets and Bachelor Buttons
- Sweetheart, Sugar Pie, Honey etc.
- Love Knots
- Paper Hands
- Scrimshaw & Cameos
- Valentine Lace