Origins of Sayings

Valentines Day

In Ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Feast of Lupercalia started the next day.

During these times boys and girls were segregated. However, the young people had a custom that began on the eve of the Festival of Lupercalia. The girl’s names were written on pieces of paper and inserted into jars. Each boy then drew a girl’s name from the jar and they were partners throughout the Festival. After being paired, the children would often continue to see each other throughout the year and on occasion even fell in love and got married.

Emperor Claudius II of Rome, also known as Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time recruiting men as soldiers. He believed that the men did not want to leave their sweethearts and cancelled all engagements and marriages throughout Rome. St. Valentine, a priest of Rome at the time, secretly married couples. He was eventually caught, arrested and condemned. He was beaten to death and beheaded on February 14th, around the year 270.

Lupercalia was a feast to a heathen God. Pastors and priests of the early Christian church did away with the pagan custom by replacing the names of the girls with the names of saints. They chose St. Valentine’s Day as the day of celebration for the new feast.

Valentine Day greetings became popular during the middles ages. During that time period, lovers sang or spoke their sentiments. Paper and written Valentines became popular at the end of the 15th Century. The oldest Valentine that exists today was made during this era and is on display in the British Museum.

In early years Valentine cards were handmade. Rebus Valentines had verses in which tiny pictures took the place of some of the words. Fraktur Valentines had ornamental lettering in the style of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Cutout Valentines were made by folding a piece of paper several times and cutting out a lacey pattern with small, pointed scissors. A Puzzle Purse Valentine was a folded puzzle, which was read and refolded. Among the numerous folds were written lines and verses that had to be read in a certain order to be understood. Using a stencil cut from oilpaper and painting through the stencil made Theoren Valentines. These Valentines originated in the Orient. Pinprick Valentines were made to look like lace by pricking tiny holes in paper with a needle or pin. I well remember receiving one of these from my grandmother many years ago.

During the 1800’s Valentines began to be manufactured in factories. In the beginning they were handpainted by the workers and came only in black and white similar to silhouettes. Fancy Valentines of the day were made of ribbon and lace. Paper lace was not introduced until the mid 1800’s. By the end of the 19th Century, Valentines were made by machine. Handmade cards became very rare.

Norcross, today known as Hallmark, began to manufacture Valentine Day cards in the early 1900’s. Each year, Hallmark displays a collection of antique Valentines in its stores. Rare cards are also displayed in museums and libraries around the world during late January and throughout February. If you have a chance to take in one of these displays, be sure to do so. You will not regret your decision.

During the 19th and 20th Centuries, postcards with Valentine greetings were produced. They came in categories of humor, romantic and friendship.

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