Monday, February 12, 2007

A Little History For Valentine's Day!

Pink hearts! Red hearts! Mushy cards! BIG cards? Chocolates! Chocolates and more chocolates!

I Love You's! Romance in the air! Flowers upon flowers, upon flowers! Cupid and his arrow! Diamonds and more diamonds!

All the signs of Valentine's Day. Better yet, all the signs of commercialization. But, is it really? Well, to know we need a little bit of history and then you can determine for yourself.

If you are anything like me then you're always wondering about traditions, folklore, history, and beginnings. At least I always have the need to know how something began or where that tradition came from.
So, given that it's Valentine's Day soon and given that I love research - and readers of my Linda's Blog know that I do - I thought I'd do a little research on the history of Valentine's Day.

From what I understand from the history and the roots of Valentine's Day can be traced back to a Catholic Feast Day, in honor of Saint Valentine. As with so many other traditions it started with a pagan tradition. For 800 years before Valentine's Day was established the Romans had practiced a pagan celebration in mid-February commemorating young men's rites of passage to the god Lupercus.

During the festival the names of women were placed in an urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and then become paired for the year with that woman. Guys today might think that was a pretty good deal! There were no strings attached but, the matches often ended in marriage. So, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th, St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D.

However, the Roman pagan "lottery" system was deemed unchristian and outlawed by the Church. I can't imagine why!!! Instead of the names of young women, the box would contain the names of saints. Oh, boy! Can't you see the guys all lining up for that? Both men and women could draw from the box. The idea was to try and emulate the saint who's name they drew during the rest of the year. Needless to say the young Roman men weren't happy with this change. So, the Church decided that instead of Lupercus they needed a more suitable saint of love to take his place. Enter Antonio Banderas or, for me, Brad Pitt!

As the legend goes Valentine was a priest who served during the 3rd century in Rome. At the time, Rome was ruled by Emperor Claudius II. He was a ruthless ruler who involved Rome and its citizens in many bloody and unpopular wars. Emperor Claudius II was having a problem recruiting married men to his army and decided that all the single men made better soldiers than the men who were married and had families. So, he decided to outlaw marriage for young men. Can you imagine someone trying to do that today? In any event, Valentine thought that this was unfair and decided to defy the emperor and perform marriages in secret for young lovers. Of course, when Valentine was discovered he was put to death. He was stoned to death and then beheaded. He suffered martyrdom on the 14Th of February about 270 A.D.

Another legend has it that Valentine, while he was being imprisoned by Emperor Claudius II, sent the first "Valentine" greeting himself while he was in prison. It's believed he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer who visited him often. Valentines great love for her and his faith managed to miraculously heal her from her blindness before he was executed. Before his death he wrote her a letter and signed it "From Your Valentine."

After the lottery was banned Roman men still sought the affection of women (what a surprise). So, it became a tradition for the men to give the women they admired handwritten messages of love and affection containing Valentine's name.

The first Valentine card was sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Maybe there's something to being imprisoned that causes men to write valentines!

Valentine's Day didn't get imported into the U.S. until the 19Th century and was brought by British settlers. Most of the valentines back then were hand written. The 1st mass produced valentines were on embossed paper and were sold around 1847 by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father had a stationary store and she loved an English valentine she had received so she decided to create her own. She made her elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures known as "scrap." Kind of sounds like today's version of scrapbooking. The picture above is a Valentine's Day postcard, circa 1910.

During the second half of the 20Th century the giving of all manner of gifts was included with the valentines. Starting in the 1980's the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as a day to give fine jewelry. What a surprise! Commercialization! And, if you'd like a statistic to support how commercial it's become - how about the fact that 1 BILLION valentine cards are sent each year. That makes Valentine's Day the second largest card sending holiday of the year. In comparison 2.6 billion cards are sent at Christmas. And, this may surprise you, 85 present of all valentines are purchased by women. Are they buying them for themselves I wonder? Hmm.... It started out with men giving them to women. Now is it women giving to men? If not men, then who?

So, is it too commercial? You do the math. One billion cards - that's a huge $$$$ making industry just in cards. Is it any wonder that the florists, the diamond industry, the restaurants, the hotel chains, etc. have all joined in. They want a piece of the action, too. Now, Valentines Day is not complete without the card, the flowers, the jewelry (and it better sparkle), the restaurant (and it better be posh), and the romantic getaway. No wonder I think it's way too commercial.

Copyright © 2007 - All Rights Reserved - Written By Linda Walsh of Linda Walsh Originals and Linda's Blog. Linda is a doll maker and doll pattern designer.

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