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History of Valentine’s Day  & Valentines gifts

There are a number of legends as to the origins of St Valentine’s Day. There appear to be three Valentines who all received Sainthood at the same time, although it is now thought that these are one and the same person. The majority of the legends that make Valentine’s Day as we know it seem to focus on Valentine the priest, who was put to death in the 3rd Century. Valentine secretly carried out marriage ceremonies for soldiers and their lovers, after Emperor Claudius had banned marriage. It also seems that Valentine was much loved by children, with them passing cards to him through the bars of his cell when he was imprisoned. Cards were still left after his death because they loved him so much.

During the Middle Ages, St Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England. Around this time, young people would pick a name from a bowl to see who their valentine would be. This name would then be worn on their sleeve for a week, giving rise to the phrase "wearing your heart on your sleeve". In Britain, celebrations became ever more popular in the 17th Century. Welsh lovespoons, which were first made around this time, are always made from a single piece of wood and have many different expressions of love and sentiment attached to them, depending on the design. Whatever the design, the gift of a lovespoon always means that the donor will take care of the recipient.

By the middle of the 18th Century, many people were exchanging hand made cards and small tokens with their lovers. Interestingly, the first Valentine’s Day card was sent from the French Duke of Orleans to his wife in 1415 during his imprisonment in the Tower of London. Commercially produced cards first became available in the 1840s in the US and it is estimated nowadays that around 25% of all cards sent in a year are Valentine’s Day cards.

Conventional gifts for Valentine’s Day include red roses, which are one of a number of flowers that say, "I love you". The use of flowers to reflect love dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Victorians used flowers as a way of expressing their feelings for another person, as strict social rules meant that they could not openly express these sentiments. Other romantic gifts include chocolate, which centuries ago was as valuable as gold and was believed to be an aphrodisiac and Teddy Bears which were named after President Roosevelt when he refused to shoot a bear cub.

St Valentine’s Day has always been the traditional day in which lovers expressed their feelings for each other. In many Europeans and South American countries, the Valentine Day traditions include thinking about friends and people who are close to us, as well as lovers. Historically, children have always been involved in celebrating St Valentine’s Day, either through actual celebrations, or childhood games.

Because Valentine’s Day is now seen more and more as an opportunity to express our feelings for anyone that we are close to, how about considering buying our valentine cards for mum, your brother or sister, or your best friend? This is one way to show that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about couples, that it really is about love.

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Last updated on 27 December 2023
Website and photos by Mike Roberts     © 2009-24 Tropical Valentine cards


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