History of Valentines Day
Originally in history of Valentine’s Day the word Valentine meant the person whose name was picked from a box to be chosen as your sweetheart up until the 1500’s. Then around 1533, it meant the folded piece of paper with the sweetheart’s name on it. By 1610 it then became the gift given to this special someone and by 1824 it then became a poem, letter or verse to a sweetheart.
Although Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 every year, it originates from the Roman celebration called Lupercalia, which was held on February 15, a fertility festival as per history of Valentine’s Day.
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 (to determine their partners) and then the
couple exchanged gifts on the festival’s day. This was considered a pagan celebration, so in 469 C.E., Pope Gelasius decided to put a Christian spin on this celebration by declaring that it was now to honor St. Valentine (A young Roman who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II who was said to have died on February 14, 270 C.E. for refusing to give up Christianity).
Why was he killed? Rumor has it that St. Valentine was a priest who defied the emperor’s ban on marriages by marrying young people in secret. He was discovered, and put to death.
Why was marriage banned?
According to history of Valentine’s Day, the legend in the 3rd century after Christ, the Emperor Claudius II did not want any of his soldiers falling in love and marrying because he felt women and families distracted the soldier’s from their duty to him. And in some cases made the men not want to go to war at all. And he needed more soldiers so he declared marriage illegal. And anyone
performing this ceremony would be killed.
Another story in the history of Valentine’s Day goes like this…A man named Valentine (who was in prison for helping persecuted Christians) 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 (as well as restoring her sight). 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 (un-named btw) 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 (blindfolded) 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? (wink!)
Another variation on this festival goes like this: Two Roman youths (who were blessed by their priest) would run through the streets swinging a goatskin thong called a Februa. The Latin word is Februatio, (the act of lashing with sacred thongs) and was believed to be for purification. From this word comes our word “February”. And the belief is that if a woman was touched by this thong, she would be able to bear children better. Thus again, we go back to a similarity with fertility?
According to the legend, they did this to honor their God Faunus, the god of crops. (Similar to the Greek God, Pan.)
February might not be considered Spring for many of us today, especially in certain areas of the US where there is still snow on the ground. But for the Romans this Lupercalia on the 14 and the Valentine’s Day on the 15th got blended into one day (on the 14th because I assume the young men and women couldn’t wait any longer to get together?) and occurred 7 weeks after the Winter Soltice, marking the progression from Winter into Spring. In the Middle Ages it was felt that birds chose their mates on February 14. So February 14th has been considered the official mating day for centuries.
Another theory about history of Valentine’s Day doesn’t begin with the Romans but with Norse. The Normans had a St. Galantin, which meant “lover of women.” Now the “G” is not pronounced like a “Gah” in the English language. It is pronounced like a “V” and so the word is like “Valantin” in sound. And so they believe that their St. Galantin’s Day is part of the confusion over St. Valentine’s Day today.
And yet the French want to say that the word Valentine comes from their word “galantine” which means a lover or gallant.
But the 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 (England) wrote the oldest known valentine in letter form 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 perse, 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.
Germany is credited with providing the expensive paper and elaborate borders to Valentines in the 18th century. But they were not given on Valentines, but more often on New Year’s Day or on a person’s birthday. So the fancy German paper was imported to England and they used it for Valentines. But this paper was expensive and soon the English began to make it themselves.
In the history of Valentine’s Day,Valentines did not always appear as hearts as we know them today. Most were known as “paper pockets” and were more like envelopes and folded over. And mailing was exepensive too. A folded and sealed with wax.
So, how does Cupid, Hearts, Arrows, etc. all fit in?
Cupid is the Roman God of Love and the most popular symbol for Valentne’s Day. Originally he was shown as a young man with a bow and arrows. But over the years, Cupid went from a handsome man to a pudgey baby? The reason is that the Romans had Cupid as the son of Venus (Goddess of Love and Beauty) and a symbol for passion, playful and tender love. His arrows were invisible and his victims (which could also include other Gods btw as well as humans) would not be aware that they were shot until they fell in love. But, the Victorian era want to help make Valentine’s Day more proper for women and children. So they tossed out this handsome Roman Adonis guy and made cupid more of a chubby baby. In other words, it’s all on how you want to spin the story from PG-rated to R-Rated!
The colors of Valentine’s Day are Pink, Red and White for most cards and decorations, but is also on other Valentine commerical items like clothing, stuffed animals, candles, etc.
Red symbolizes warmth and feeling. It is associated with the color of the human heart.
White is a symbol of purity. (In some cases also of Faith and so it means the faith of the love two people have for each other.)
And so Pink (combination of Red + White) is then a symbol as I understand if of innocents or virginity in some cases.
Hearts and Arrows
A heart (red or pink) with an arrow piercing through it is the most common shape and look for a Valentines, and even candles, candies, cookies, cakes, figurines, stuffed images, etc. The heart is a symbol both of love and also vulnerability.
When you send someone a Valentine, you take a risk of being rejected and your feelings hurt. So a piercing arrow is a symbol of death and the vulnerability of love. On the other hand, the heart and arrow also symbolize the merging of the male and female as one.
In the 12th century, physicians believed that the heart was the seat of love and affection in the human body. But the actual biologicial shape of the human heart does not look like the heart as we see it today. Why? Well, some people are guessing (and it is funny!) that the Valentine heart-shape as we know it today was done by a doodler to represent the human female buttocks or a female torso with well-endowed breasts or the imprint of lips (wearing lipstick) made upon a piece of paper. Once again, it’s all on how you want to spin the story!
Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve?
This expression comes from early 1800’s where young American and British men wore slips of paper pinned to their sleeves with their girlfriend’s name written on. They did this for several days (why and when I have no clue) and so it started the expression “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.”
Today the American Heart Association in the US has a “Save a Sweet Heart” anti-smoking campaign during Valentine’s Week to help educate school kids against smoking.
As I mentioned above, it was believed that birds chose their mates on February 14. And so the dove was chosen to be the bird representative because it was sacred to the Roman Goddess Venus because it chose a lifelong mate. They also make a cooing sound, which further proved they were the love couple. The dove was also a sacred bird to the Goddess, Venus (and other Love Deities). And Noah had considered the dove to be his messanger. In the Song of Solomon, the word “Turtle” is really referring to the “turtledove.” The turtledove is common in Asia and Europe, but it is not found in N. America at all. Since all doves are part of the pigeon family, they mate for life, and the male and female both share in the caring of their young. Their bcooing sounds are often considered “love sounds” and today it is often said that when people in love talk rather sugary and baby-like it is “cooing” with each other.
Dove superstitions are that they were magical and were often used to divine the future. The heart of a dove was often an ingredient in love potions. If you saw a white dove fly overhead it was suppose to be good luck. If you dreamt of a dove it was a sign that you had a promise of happiness. And, if you saw the first dove in Springtime, made a wish, that wish would come true (much like wishing upon a falling star.)
But during the years, love birds have changed from Doves to hummingbirds to birds of paradises. Today, love birds depcited on Valentines are tiny parrots brilliant in color because genetically they really are in the parrot family. They often act like young lovers also. How? They are known for living in pairs and keeping to themselves, much like young lovers want their privacy today. As pets they are considered loveable, easy to tame and respond to affection. Some can even be taught to speak.
The bad side of lovebirds is that they can carry a disease harmful to humans. And so, there are strict rules regarding importing them into the United States.
The custom of exchanging love notes goes back to the Roman Lupercalia festival with the names being drawn. But the British were the ones who popularized sending your feelings to someone via a printed card. The first Valentine card was created by Chrles, Duke of Orleans, imprisoned in the tower of London for several years following the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. he sent Valentine poems to his wife in France from his jail cell. Commercial Valentines didn’t apepar until 1800 (In England) and although handmade cards had been around for years. Inthe 19th century a new kind of Valentine emerged called “penny dreadfuls” that were insulting and cruel rather than loving and flattering. They were mostly sent anonymously too.
In America, hand-made Valentines appeared around 1740 and were sealed with red wax and left secretly on a lover’s doorstep (or sent in the mail). Commercial cards for the most part took over around 1880’s. But people still (and will always) make homemade ones too. Some included trinkets, some locks of hair and in some cases there were checks that were drawn against “The Bank of Love” and valentines printed to look like money. One was so realistic to a 5 pound note it was quickly recalled!
Valentine verses were romantic, whimsical and critical. As I mentioned above, postage was expensive. And during the English Victorian times the custom was that the recipient paid for the mail they got (not the sender as we do it today). So you can imagine what a double insult it was to pay for a Valentine only to open it up and discover it is critical aka “Vinegar Valentine.”
Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway were famous children’s book illustrators of their time. At the age of 22, Kate sold her first Valentine design for $15. Within weeks, over 25,000 copies were sold. For a few years after, she kept designing Valentines, but was never paid a penny more. Today, Kate Greenaway Valentine’s are considered collectable items, as well as those designed by Walter Crane.
When Valentine Cards got to America, they also got more creative. The first known to come to the US is a note written by John Winthrop in 1629 to his wife before leaving England for the New World. It ended with “My sweet wife, Thou must be my valentine for none hat challenged me.” He later became governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Valentines were not only done in delicate pen and ink, but also watercolor and the handwriting also became a thing of beauty for the card as well, as good penmanship was considered a form of art, as well as the quality of a person.
Acrostic Valentines – had verses in which the first letter of the lines spelled out the loved one’s name.
Example of the name Amanda.
A– Another moment without you is
M-more pain than I can bear.
A-And no other love will ever be
N– nearer to my heart than yours.
D– Days pass slowly until we shall meet
A-again and our lives forever share.
Cutout Valentines (which most children do in school today also) were simply made by folding paper several times and then cutting out small areas to make lacelike designs.
Pinprick Valentines were made by pricking tiny paper holes with a pin or needled into the paper into a lovely design.
Theorem or Poonah Valentines had designs that were painted through a stencil cut in oil paper (style originated in the Orient) with a coat of gum arabic to keep the paint from running.
Rebus Valentines had verses in which tiny pictures took the place of some of the words.
Puzzle Valentines – Had a puzzle to read and refold, in which scattered among their many folds were verses that had to be read in a certain order. I remember making these in school in which they ended up like a pyramid in which you put your your index finger and thumb of both hands on both sides and moved the puzzle valentine North to South and East To West chanting some silly rhyme until you stopped and could chose a flap to open and read.
Fraktur Valentines – had ornamental lettering in the stle of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.
But, Valentines did not always come via paper and lace. Many sailors would return from their voyages bringing silk scarves (or other items) to their wives or girlfriends that had designs of hearts, flowers and other romantic images or words. And, in return many of the wives or girlfriends of those sailors (before they took off to sea) made them stronger bundles decorated with loving images and thoughts (and filled with items) to take with them on their voyages to think of them.
And during the Civil War some of the Valentines were more like paper dolls that were actually dressed with cloth (or paper) to try to resemble the person sending it.
And during the Roaring Twenties, some valentines were actually shaped like tomatoes. At that time, tomatoes only grew in flower gardens and were considered “love apples.” (Kinda makes you wonder what they considered ketchup to be then!)
Flowers were considered love tokens before there even was a St. Valentines. The Roman God, Bacchus (God of Wine and Joy) and Venus (Goddes of Love and Beauty) both considered the beauty and fragrance of flowers to be tied with romance and love. But since the time of Solomon, the primary flower linked to romance was always the rose. Cleopatra of Egypt covered the floor with roses before receiving Mark Anthony.
A Roman myth is that Cupid was carrying a vase of sweet nectar to the gods on Mt. Olympus and spilled it on the ground. From that spot of spilled nectar, roses grew! But if roses are so symbolic of romance and love, then why the thorns? Well, another story goes like this:
The soft west wind named Sephyr one day opened a lovely rose and Cupid bent over to kiss the elegant petals. When he did, he ws stung by an irate bee hiding inside. Venus got so angry she told Cupid to shoot some bees and string them up on one of his arrows. She then planted this string of dead bees on the rose stems, and the stings became the rose’s thorns and ever since roses had thorns.
The ancient Romans also believed that anything discussed under a rose (I mean how low can you go to talk?) was considered sub rosa and to be kept secret. Today the Latin term is still used today to express something that is to be kept confidential.
Another Roman theory is that the Rose reminded the Roman Catholic Church of watching Christians devoured by lions. Later on, the Virgin Mary was called “The Rose of Heaven.”
Daisies, Violets and Bachelor Buttons
There are a few other flowers considered to be romantic also.
The Romans believed that the daisy was once a wood nymph. One day, while dancing in a field she was seen by Vertumnus, the God of Spring (who fell in love with her of course). But when he reached for her she got frightened.
So, out of pity the other gods let her sink into the earth and she became a daisy.
I do not know how the game of holding a daisy and plucking off it’s petals saying “He loves me” or “He loves me not” got started.
As far as Violets go….one day it is said that Venus got jealous of a group of beautiful maidens. And when Cpid refused to say that his mother’s beauty was better than theirs, Venus go furious, so she beat her rivals (these maidens) until they were blue and she watched them shrink into violets.
In the Science of Botany, the cornflower is known as Kyanus, named after a Greek youth who was born in a field one day, making garlands of the blue blossoms for the altar of Flora, Goddess of Flowers. He died, unfortnately, leaving some of the garlands undone and so this touched Flora’s heart and so in his honor she named the flowers after him.
Say It With Flowers…
This is most commonly known as FTD’s slogan today.
But what to say and with what flower?
Here are some traditional meanings for some other flowers often sent for Valentine’s Day or other touching moments:
Bleeding Heart = Hopeless, but not heartless.
Gardenia = I love you secretly.
Gladiolus = You pierce my heart.
Lily-of-the-Valley= Let us make up.
Rose – I love you passionately.
Sweet William = You are gallant, suave and perfect.
Violet = I return your love.
Green leaves represented hope in a love affair. (Often rumored to be the reason why British girls sprinkled bay leaves with rose water and put them on their pillows on Valentine’s Day Eve. They wanted to see their loved one in their dreams.)
Sweetheart, Sugar Pie, Honey etc.
When peoplea are in love they just seem to automatically develop this type of dialogue. But why? We often refer to someone we care about as sweetheart or honey. Researchers have found that when we fall in love, a chemical
called phenylethylamine or phenylalanine is produced. This drug is responsible for that erratic, psychotic love high that we all feel. When phenylethylamine or phenylalanine is flowing through our veins it’s as if we are on amphetamines. We can stay up all night and work all day the next day. And a pheromone called androstenol is also released, which heightens our sexual attractions. Thus, we also end up producing what is called a sweet taste in our mouths and we start spouting off phrases like “luscious” and “sweet” and “honey” and other things that we like such as “muffin” or “cupcake” or “pudding.”
However, there is nothing as bad as love gone wrong! And so then we suddenly start spouting off words that have to do with being disgusted, depressed, angry, bitter etc. These are like, “a sour taste in my mouth” or “foul mood” or even being a little “stinker.”
Historically, apples have been tokens of love and fertility. The Norse gods ate apples to stay young and scholars say that Hebrew women dran and washed with the sap of an apple for fertility. Apples have also been known for divining and fortune-telling since ancient times. So the phrase, “Mom, Country and Apple Pie” all refer to types of love …. maternal, patriotism and sexual. But, apples are NOT really the original aphrodisiac at all.
The Spaniards believed that the tomato (nightshade vegetation) to really be the true romance-inducing fruit and brought the seeds over to the US from South America. So “love apples” are not really apples at all, but tomatoes. And this is how we get the phrase, “She’s a really hot tomato!”
Believe it or not, chocolate contains the same chemical mentioned above called phenylethylamine or phenylaline that is produced in our brains when falling in love, and that gives the same emotional high related to amphetamines. Many psychologist feel that chocolate is an instant “love booster” and an automatic sweet taste in our mouths. And with some people, both chocolate and love can be addictive. Anyway, the idea of giving chocolate to someone we care about is a way to stir up the same emotions in them (only artificially if they don’t really feel the same way emotionally back) as well.
As with all drugs, the phenylethylamine will wear off if it’s not produced due to real emotions.
Some also say that “sweets for my sweet” is a pun for giving any candy to someone you care about.
It has no beginning and no end and consists of graceful loops (sometimes forming hearts) in which messages of love are either attached and knotted in (or written on the ribbon or rope) and read by turning the knot around and around. And, if you couldn’t make a real love knot, then many Valentines included a design of one. A young man often hung this love knot on his true love’s doorknob, slipping a letter under also. (Some feel this began with the
sailors since many were skilled at making fishnets and so doing knots or macramé were their skill. Others say it is a celtic custom and design. While others say it is Scandinavian.)
By the 19th Century another symbol of love became the paper hand. It was considered a symbol of courtship because of the custom of a man “asking for a lady’s hand” in marriage. And eventually tiny paper gloves became a valentine card symbol as well….evolving into gloves (esp. silk) becoming a popular gift to for a man to give his sweetheart. Eventually, a woman sort of expected a pair of good gloves as a gift (in she was in certain social circles). Eventually (I guess it depended on how well you knew the woman?) a man would also give shoestrings, silk stockings, garters and jewelry to his sweetheart for Valentines.
Scrimshaw & Cameos
Now, back to those romantic sailors longing for their true loves while at sea… Many sailors would scratch designs on tusk, bones, ivory or wood as a token of love. This is known as scrimshaw today. Long flat decorated scrimshaw were often meant as corest stiffeners known as busks and stays. Some carved messages into them. And it is also rumored that talented sailors would often carve images of their fair ladies on conch shells (known as cameos) because photos were not invented yet. Or….in some cases they carved images of themselves on conch shells to leave with their true loves to remember them by (had them mounted as pins). The male cameos are more rare than the
female ones. In other cases, the men would carve pictures of Gods on the cameos or scrimshaw and give it to their loved one as an omelet of love and protection for them.
Here is a poem written from a sailor to his sweetheart when he sent her a carved scrimshaw whalebone busk.
Accept, dear girl, this busk from me
Carved by my humble hand.
I took it from a sperm whale’s jaw
One thousand miles from land.
In many a gale had been the whale
In which this bone did rest.
His time is past, but his bone at last
Must now support thy breast.
I find this the most phenomenally personal gift from a man to a women in that day. Today, if a man gave a woman say a Victoria’s Secret bra or lingerie, it would not be considered that intimate as in the Victorian times when a man literally carved the support bones for his woman’s corsets!
Expensive Valentines today have real lace, perhaps gold charms, real flowers (or dried) and even made with red velvet and not paper. For thousands of years, certain “pretty things” have often been associated with romance. In the days of olde, knights often rode into battle with his lady love’s scarf or ribbon tied somewhere on him. Lace, because of it’s delicate nature, has come to represent something lovely to look at and thus represent love (because lace really isn’t practical as far as a fabric.)
So lace as long as 400 years ago because a popular trimming for clothing…especially clothing associated with love = wedding dresses!
How lace paper got made was purely accidental. Joseph Addenbrooke in 1834 was working for a London paper when by accident a file brushed over a sheet of paper embossed with a raised design. The high points of this embossed design thus got filed off leaving small holes, and giving a lacey look to the paper.
This led into the business of making paper laces and soon others followed — competitively to the point where some of these paper laces are of museum quality today.
Although most of us who are not in love, married or seeing someone, dread Valentine’s Day for it’s reminder of loneliness, we only face a slight sense of depression and nothing more. For some people with certain phobias, the following can be a problem for them:
Orintho-Apiphobia – Fear of the Birds and Bees
Ereuthophobia – Fear of Blushing
Obligaphobia – Fear of Commitment
Anlophobia – Fear of Flowers
Dorapophobia – Fear of Furs
Zelophobia – Fear of Jealousy
Amoraphobia – Fear of Love
Gamophobia – Fear of Marriage
Arotophobia – Fear of Physical Love
Hedonophobia – Fear of any kind of Pleasure or Having Fun
Haphephobia – Fear of Touching or Being Touched
Gynophobia – Fear of Girls
Androphobia – Fear of Men
So what do these have to do with Valentine’s Day exactly? Well for some people, they really fear any kind of “potential” social interaction with the opposite sex, or what in their minds might be perceived as a potential. If a guy perhaps is afraid of being hugged by a female, he might dread Valentine’s Day for this? It might never happen, but he worries about “what if” all day long. The same can be true for a female. Or it might be that they fear their own reactions if they get a Valentine, such as blushing. So they don’t want one given to them publically.
For most of us, this sounds a bit extreme or crazy, but for those with certian phobias it’s a really serious situation.
However, let me briefly mention what the professionals did in the book regardling Valentine’s Day and love. We are now living in an era of AIDS and well, just for the sake of common sense, we need to ‘think’ before we really allow our
emotions to run amuck, especially on a holidays that has it’s basis as fertility, mating and so on.
It’s fine to let someone know you like them or find them attractive. But stop and think about how you want to reciprocate any mutual feelings, OK?
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