Won’t You Be Mine?
If you’re like many of us, the thought of sending or receiving a Valentine’s Day card makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. These tokens of love, friendship, or humor amount to an extraordinary 145 million pieces of mail every year. In fact, it’s the largest holiday for sending cards after Christmas. Of course, nowadays, your Valentine’s Day card is just as likely to be an e-card sent via the Internet as a paper declaration sent via the mail or in person. One particularly charming custom is the making of Valentine’s Day cards by schoolchildren. Indeed, these heartfelt and endearing messages grace fridges and scrapbooks across the country.
So, who was this St. Valentine? A definitive answer is shrouded in the mists of time, but it’s thought that he was an early Christian saint imprisoned for his faith. Apparently, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and couldn’t resist slipping her a note, which he signed “Your Valentine.” Hence, such notes became known as “valentines.” The timing of February 14 probably comes from the ancient Roman Feast of Lupercalia, a time for celebrating fertility and everything of an amorous nature. It’s hard to date when handmade valentines first became widespread in America, but by the mid-19th century, the commercial versions were firmly established. A landmark year was in 1913 when Hallmark unveiled its first Valentine’s Day card. Over the years, Valentine’s Day cards have evolved with changing fashions, their decorative flourishes and sentiments reflecting the flavor of the times. For example, some cards with couples kissing, instead of chastely holding hands, were considered slightly risqué up until the 1920s. My, how things have changed.