Will You Be My Valentine? Why we send Valentine’s Day cards.
The origins of Valentine’s Day lie in between the mysteries of folklore and fact, from multiple martyrs, a Pope and the birds’ mating season in Europe. What stands out from my research is that for whatever reason, or no reason, the holiday has been celebrated in one capacity or another for over 15 centuries with heart-pounding expectation, passion and romance.
Let’s start with the name. Valentine’s Day was born out of Christian and Roman tradition. The Catholic Church recognized three saints named Valentine, all of which were known martyrs. Each has their own folklore allegedly linking them to the origin of the holiday. The best story was from one imprisoned Valentine who had fallen in love with his jailor’s daughter. Before his death he sent her a letter signed “From your Valentine.” The legend made him one of the most popular, heroic and romantic saints in Europe.
Then there is the date. February 14th. The first actual celebration day was February 15th. The Church tried to christianize the pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia which was held on that day. At the end of the 5th century it was deemed unchristian and outlawed, while at approximately the same time Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
So the date is now set, but how did this day come to be a romantic holiday? During the Middle Ages in France and England, February 14th was believed to be the beginning of birds’ mating season which added to the idea of the day of romance. The most famous expression of love linking the day is Geoffrey Chaucer’s reference to Valentine’s Day in The Parliament of Fowls, poetry which depicts birds choosing their mates on the feast day: ‘For this was on Seynt Valentynes day, Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make’. [For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes to choose his mate].
The oldest written Valentine first appeared in 1415. Charles, the imprisoned Duke of Orleans, sent the handwritten love note to his wife from the Tower of London. It can be viewed at the British Library in London.
By the 1700s Valentine’s Day celebrations had gained much in popularity. Two centuries later, the mass produced Valentine’s Day card called “mechanical Valentines” became popular over the handwritten note due to new printing technologies in Europe.
In the 1840s, Ester A. Howland, known as the "Mother of the Valentine” began selling the first mass-produced Valentine’s cards in America.
Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, 1 billion Valentines are sent each year, second only to 2.6 billion Christmas cards. They are not just for lovers either. Friends, teachers, family members and children exchange or send these out. Men need to pay attention and get in the game… 85% of these cards are purchased by women.
Scott Saporiti is the President/CEO of SAPORI, an online greeting card and stationery company headquartered in Valparaiso, IN.
Visit us at sapori.co for Valentine box sets, gifts, stationery and more.