Every February 14th we celebrate Valentine’s Day where we remember and celebrate the ones we hold dear. Have you ever wondered how and why the items that typically bring to mind Valentine’s Day have come to be associated with the day? Read on for a tour through history of Valentine’s Day symbols and gifts.
Since ancient times, the heart has been considered the source of all emotions, while over time it came to be associated most strongly with love. The Valentine heart shape that we are now so familiar may have come about in an early attempt to re-create the shape of the actual human heart.
In centuries past, it was common for a woman to carry a lace handkerchief. As a way of encouraging a potential suitor, she would drop her handkerchief. If the gentleman picked it up, then a conversation could begin and a romance might blossom.
This custom began in Europe when Charles II of Sweden in the early 1700’s shared a Persian art called “the language of flowers”. With this language, where every flower conveyed a meaning, entire conversations could be had with a well-chosen bouquet. While this historical practice can still be followed, today there are no set rules. What governs the giving is the sentiment behind the gesture, with the meaning of the flower coming from a more sentimental place.
The most typical flower associated with Valentine’s Day is the rose. Universally, roses signify love. However, folklore contends that the color can hold meaning for the depth or intention of that love ranging from the friendship of yellow roses to admiration or joy of pink roses to the passionate love of red roses.
While chocolate has been enjoyed by the aristocracy since 900 AD, the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s made chocolate available to the masses. Richard Cadbury of Cadbury Brothers is credited with creating the first ever heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day, thus sparking the link between chocolate and Valentine’s Day. It is reported that 75 percent of chocolate purchases for this holiday are by men.
While as far back as the middle ages, it was common for suitors to sing their words of adoration to the ones of their affection for Valentine’s Day, the first written valentine was not penned until 1415. Written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, the poem was a love sonnet sent to his wife while he was a prisoner of war. That poem is among numerous other manuscripts from the Duke’s life that are now in the collection of the British Library in London, England.
Written valentines became commonplace by the 1700’s in Great Britain, and by the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, the popularity of this valentine custom had found its way to the United States. Up until 1848, valentine cards in the United States were handmade or were store-bought imports from overseas. That all changed when Esther Howland, a 20 year old with an entreprenueral spirit, created the first mass-produced American valentines under the name New England Valentine Company. Following her lead, Joyce Hall, founded Hallmark in 1910. The Hallmark Company which has since prospered as the leader in the greeting card industry says that Valentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday for sending cards (second only to Christmas). According to the Greeting Card Association, over 1 billion people express their love and devotion with a Valentine’s Day card each year. Eighty-five percent of the card purchases are by women.
So, now that you know how some of the Valentine’s Day traditions began… come to our Facebook page and tell us your favorite way to celebrate the day.
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