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MAIN Arrow to Home LifeHome Life Arrow to Home Life - HolidaysHolidays Arrow to Valentine's DayValentine's Day Arrow to Hisory of Valentine's DayHistory of Valentine's Day

19th century Valentines Day card
"My dearest miss, I send
thee a kiss,"
dated 1862.

Expressing love and affection with the people closest to you has been a tradition dating back thousands of years. Who is St. Valentine and how did become the "patron saint of lovers"?

Although early historical records are sketchy, we know that St. Valentine was a martyr who was beheaded for his beliefs in early Christian Rome.

Later, in the Middle Ages, St. Valentine was honored by the church with a special feast day on February 14. Coincidentally, that day was already known in local folklore as the date when birds first began looking for a mate.

Naturally, all that cooing and billing was enough to associate romance with St. Valentine — and the rest, as they say, is St. Valentine's Day history!

In fact, during the Middle Ages, it was a custom that young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear this name pinned onto their sleeves for one week for everyone to see. This was the origin of the expression "to wear your heart on your sleeve."

By 1601, Valentine's Day was marked by famous playwright William Shakespeare in his famous play about the doomed Hamlet as his love interest Ophelia laments: “To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,/All in the morning betime,/And I a maid at your window,/To be your Valentine."

19th century Valentines Day card
Gloves were a popular way to
show affection on Valentine's
Day in the late 1700's.

By the late 1700's, gloves were a popular gift exchange when a lady would give to the object of her affection a fancy pair along with the traditional: “Good-morrow Valentine, I go today; To wear for you, what you must pay; A pair of gloves next Easter Day". If the man later gifted the lady in kind, the couple were officially sweethearts.

Decades later, Valentine's Day first began taking on its modern look when during the Victorian era Valentine's Day love notes between sweethearts became wildly popular, leading to the exchange of gifts and flowers. Today, everything from homemade chocolates to diamond engagement rings are being hawked as appropriate gifts to give on Valentine's Day.

Although St. Valentine's Day celebrations have varied over the centuries from the simple to the elaborate, the sentiment remains exactly the same, with a day set aside for expressions of affection between romantic love birds -- a rosy sign that spring must surely be on its way!


More about Valentine's Day history around the Web:


History of Valentine's Day
- Great overview from the History Channel with a video intro, a biography of St. Valentine, with holiday customs and lore, quotes, a retelling of great romances throughout history with related e-cards, dating tips.

Annie's Valentines History Page - Kid-friendly look at customs, traditions and fun historical facts about the big day.

Valentine's Day - Not What It Used To Be - Check out an easy to read history and lots of interesting fun facts.

St. Valentine's Day: History of the Card - The evolution of Valentine's Day greetings, love notes and cards with a discussion on different types of 19th century Valentine's Day card available with sample verse.


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