We’ve created lots of love-based crafts and designs at Boxcitement, for lots of reasons and occasions – from cute Mother’s day characters to indulgent bath bombs and stylish greetings cards. It’s at this time of year, though, that symbols of love seem to be just everywhere – yes, it’s coming up to Valentines Day, in case you hadn’t noticed!
While designing the card you see pictured here (which we also created as a free downloadable print – email email@example.com if you’d like one!) I started to wonder just when and how the anonymous declaration of love became associated with Valentine’s and just exactly what Valentine’s Day means beyond the giving and receiving of cards. Turns out, there are lots of different origins behind what we celebrate on February 14th – most of which date back centuries.
It all started in Roman times, during the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated on February 15th, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and to the founders of Rome Romulus and Remus. Priests would sacrifice a goat and touch the faces of women with its blood; this was believed to aid fertility. All the young women in the city would then place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired up with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
And where did the name Valentine’s Day come from? Well that too stems from Roman times, when a young Christian named Valentinus was sentenced to death in the third century AD for declaring that love ought to be between one man and one woman, not the polygamous society that Roman law allowed for at the time (men could take up to 12 wives). In prison he wrote to a young female friend and signed the letter ‘from your Valentine’ – though not a proven historical fact this story led Valentine to be canonised by the Catholic church and he remains a saint to this day. His letter is often believed to be the first Valentine’s card ever written.
Lupercalia, a Pagan celebration, was outlawed by Christian leaders at the end of the 5th century. But during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that February 14th was the beginning of the mating season of birds, which added to the idea that the middle of February was the optimum time for romance. Around this time, Valentine greetings started to become popular; the oldest known Valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century, and it became common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of personal feelings was discouraged; it was also considered easier to avoid embarrassment or rejection by not signing a name which is why Valentine’s cards are supposed to be anonymous today.
In America, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced Valentines in the 1840s. Known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” she made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colourful pictures known as “scrap.”, the influence of which can still be seen in Valentine card designs today. In 1913 Hallmark Cards in Kansas City began mass producing specific Valentine’s Day cards and the commercialisation of the day had begun. According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year after Christmas in countries such as America, Australia, Mexico and the UK. You may not be too surprised to hear that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all Valentine’s cards, though it is still the case that men purchase the most flowers – the most popular being red roses, a flower that has signified love and passion since Greek times.
We love the idea of sending notes, cards and small gifts to people at Boxcitement – which is why of course we include these items in every single one of our boxes, as well as items to keep for yourself. I’d like to think that these tokens of love and affection can be given at any time of the year and for no reason at all – but if Valentine’s Day does let us pause for a minute and remember the ones we love then there’s no harm in celebrating that, is there?!