The real Valentine

Valentine's Day, short for Saint Valentine's Day,  is celebrated every February 14. Cards, flowers, chocolates, and gifts are exchanged in the United States and many countries worldwide on this day.

Did you ever stop to check where this tradition comes from? Well, I did. And there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the origins of Valentine's Day. I did some search online, and this is what I found out.

For some, the holiday has origins in the pagan festival of Lupercalia that used to be held in February 13 - 15. The festival celebrated the coming of spring and fertility, and it was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. Pope Gelasius I outlawed this festival at the end of the 5th century and declared February 14 Saint Valentine's Day.

But which Saint Valentine?

According to the legends, there were two martyrs named Saint Valentine. One would have been a priest who served during the third century in Rome (Saint Valentine from Rome). Emperor Claudius II decided that soldiers should be single (you know, married men were always worried about their wives and children, too much trouble) and prohibited marriage for young men. Brave priest Valentine disagreed and kept performing marriages for young lovers in secret, leading to his death when Claudius discovered his secret actions. The other one would be Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop, who was also executed by Claudius II after attempting to help Christians escape the terrible treatment received in Roman prisons. Before his execution, he reportedly performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of one of his jailers.

How did romance come along?

In France and England, February 14 was considered the beginning of birds' mating season during the Middle Ages, which added to the idea that Valentine's Day should be a day for romance. The English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was allegedly the first to record St. Valentine's Day as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem Parliament of Foules. In modern English:

"For this was on Saint Valentine's Day
When every bird comes there to choose his match
Of every kind that men may think of
And that so huge a noise they began to make
That earth and air and tree and every lake
Was so full, that not easily was there space
For me to stand—so full was all the place."

Still with me?

The court of love entered the scene in the 15th century when Saint Valentine's appeared in many other poetries from Charles, Duke of Orléans, to Margery Brewes and even in Hamlet, from William Shakespeare.

In the 18th century, this celebration started to take the form we know nowadays. In 1797, The Young Man's Valentine Writer was published in England. It contained suggestions of verses for lovers unable to use pen and paper to express their feelings. At the same time, printers had already begun producing cards with verses and sketches called "mechanical valentines," which became a success. It’s said that in 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in the United Kingdom. Can you imagine that?

Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace being introduced in the mid-19th century. Esther Howland, whose father had a book and stationery store in Massachusetts, got an English Valentine from a business associate. Inspired by it, in 1847 she created the first version of an American Valentine. Her Valentines started the same tradition in the United States and granted her the Valentine Queen title.

From there, this celebration expanded culturally and commercially to what we know today, but recently, it has changed again, moving from being exclusive to love birds to friends and family.

I found it really exciting to learn about this tradition. And I was surprised with a discovery. As you could see, originally, Valentine is not a person, but a card that can carry your message of love and affection to anyone you care about, romantic partner, family, or friends.

So let’s take this opportunity! After all we've been through during the last two years, I can't imagine a moment when messages like that could be more meaningful. Preferably if you send it on one of Koate's cards.

Love to you all!


blank cards for Valentines by Kotae