It's Literally a Love Fest, the Story Behind Valentine's Day

The Oldest Known Valentine, from 1790, is now Valued at about $5000,
 which also makes it the world's most expensive valentine

Valentine’s Day is like so many other holidays we celebrate, really old and really pagan in its origins. The  Catholic saint for whom the holiday is named dates back to Roman Christians, and his legend is murky at best. He could have been one of three guys, so you can choose the martyr whose story you like best. They do all have in common that were strong, heroic, and definitely romantic and filled the bill for the church to eradicate one more pagan celebration.

Around 270 A.D. the Christian church decided to assign February 14th to the murky saint as his saint’s day because guess what? A pagan celebration took place the next day. Lupercalia was a seriously pagan festival dedicated to Faunus, the god of agriculture and Romulus and Remus, the twins who are the designated founders of Rome.

A Howland Valentine, fussy, frilly and Victorian

The Lupercia priests gathered at a sacred cave and sacrificed a goat to the god as a request for fertility for the people. They would cut the hide into strips and dip it in the goat’s blood and stroll around the city and into the fields marking both women and fields with slaps of the hide strips. Apparently Roman ladies welcomed this, but it’s not my idea of a great valentine.

It took a good chunk of time, like most of the middle ages, for Valentine ’s Day to become definitively associated with love. February 14th was thought by Europeans to be the beginning of bird mating season which fueled the fires of attraction and love and contributed to the love lore behind the day.

The first written valentine we know of was written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was jailed in the Tower of London after his capture at Agincourt. King Henry V even hired a flack to compose a poem for the lady he was pursuing. As time marched on, so did Valentine’s Day complete with the exchange of small tokens of affection and if you could write, a mushy note.

Lots of old and charming valentines are still available at really affordable prices, this one is around $5

The invention and progress of the printing press  and its cost effective technology unleashed a torrent of printed cards and by the turn of the 19th century valentine cards with illustrations and funny pictures took the place of letters.  This was a time when it was not the thing to show emotion to one another, insert repressed Victorians here,  and cards let people show their hearts via cards.
Stamps were suddenly cheap too, so you could send that card just about anywhere to anyone you fancied.

In the colonies (us) Americans started exchanging handmade valentines in the 1700s. In the 1840s the Mother of the Valentine, Esther Howland,saw a need and filled it. She realized commercially made beautifully decorated cards could fill a niche and she used the opportunity to grow a business. She actually hoped for 200 valentines from here her first order, and got 5000 after her salesman brother showed the cards to merchants on his rounds. Fancy valentines became a cottage industry and some of these can still be found by the dedicated collector.

Time brought automation which lowered prices and upped cuteness factors

The Victorians took to these fussy, pretty pieces like ducks to water and Valentine’s Day exploded. Now over one billion cards are sent annually, and no surprise, women send 85% of the valentines.

Valentines are a great collector’s item. This link is to a great article on collecting Valentines.

Valentine's Day is so  much more than cards now.
But Valentine's cards come in 2nd place right after Christmas for the most cards mailed.


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