There are many theories on how Valentine’s Day began. The holiday may go back to ancient Roman times, when a festival called Lupercalia was held on February 15. Lupercalia was a celebration honouring Juno, the Roman deity of women and marriage. During the festival, women wrote love notes called billets and put them in a large jar or urn. Each man would select a note and pursue the woman whose name was on it. Another theory is that Valentine’s Day began with one or more early Christian saints. According to one legend, the Roman Emperor Claudius II (A.D. 200s) forbade all marriages, believing that single men made better soldiers.
But a priest named Valentine broke the law and married many couples in secret. Another story tells of an early Christian named Valentine who befriended children. When he was imprisoned by the Romans for his faith, Valentine’s little friends gave him notes and cards through his jail window. This may explain the tradition of exchanging cards on Valentine’s Day. Most of the Christian stories agree that Valentine was killed by the Romans on February 14 around A.D. 269. People began to make and sell valentines on a commercial level in the mid-1800s. During this time, it also became affordable to mail valentines. (Previously, postage was so expensive that cards were almost always hand-delivered.)
In the 1830s, Esther A. Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, became the first American to make mass-produced Valentines. She hired a staff of women and set up an assembly line: One group glued on flowers, others added lace, and some painted leaves. Her sales amounted to about $130,000 annually. Today, there are almost 2,000 greeting card publishers in the United States. Flowers are symbolic of love blooming and waning. Red is symbolic of strong emotions; yellow, of jealousy. Other flowers also have symbolic meanings. The forget-me-not represents true love. The periwinkle is used to express early friendship (blue) and happy memories (white).
Did you know?
1. Hundreds of years ago, children in England dressed up as adults on Valentine’s Day and sang songs door to door.
2. There is also an old English myth claiming that February 14 is the day the birds of spring choose their mates.
3. The British artist Kate Greenaway was famous for her Valentines decorated with lovely children and gardens.
4. The language of flowers was developed in the 1600s in Constantinople and Persia.
5. The red rose is very popular and was said to be the favourite flower of Venus, the deity of love exchanged during this day.
6. How you combined a bouquet for your Valentine could say quite a lot .