...It is a centuries-old holiday with ties to ancient Roman rituals and customs from Victorian England. We know February is the month for romance. But who is Saint Valentine and what connects him to these ancient rites? Actually, three different saints were named Valentine or Valentinus by the Catholic Church. One was a Roman priest during the time of Emperor Claudius II - third century; while another was jailed for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons. The imprisoned Valentine fell in love with the jailor's daughter and before his execution wrote her a love letter signed, "From your Valentine"!
The date of Valentine's day is also suspect. Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival in ancient Rome, would end with the young women in the city placing their names in a big urn. Roman bachelors would blindly chose a name from the urn and these two became a pair for the year; often resulting in a marriage. It is believed that the Christian church may have put Valentine's Saint Day on February 15 - the same day as Lupercalia - in an attempt to Christianize the pagan celebration. At the end of the 5th century Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14th as Saint Valetine's Day.
The love connection caught on with the date during the middle ages in France and England where it was a common belief that February 14th was the beginning of birds' mating season.
Valentine greetings were also popular as far back as the middle ages, with written Valentine's appearing after the 1400's. The oldest known Valentine was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London:
"My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine."
Whether in the United States or Australia, Valentine's Day has been popularly celebrated since the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th century friends and lovers from every social class were exchanging handwritten notes. The 1900's brought us printed cards with advancements in technology. Today an average of one billion Valentine's Day cards are sent each year
One last interesting tidbit....Esther A. Howland, "The Mother of the Valentine", sold the first mass-produced Valentines in America starting in the 1840's. Her creations were made with real lace,
ribbons and colorful pictures; not unlike the lovely Valentine's Day items available at Vintage 54 Collective! Visit us this month to shop for your Valentine or Valentines. As history shows us...you certainly won't be alone in your quest for love!