Valentines Day – some dismiss it as an unromantic, commercial con but there’s some interesting history behind this massively popular greetings card fest.
The story behind Valentines Day
Valentines Day is supposedly named after St. Valentine, a Christian martyr and saint who lived in the 5th century. This particular version (there are several differing tales about other characters called Valentine) the story goes that when the Roman army banned its top soldiers from marriage – because women stopped them concentrating on fighting – a priest called Valentine continued to marry many couples in secret.
Unfortunately, he was found out – but before he was executed, Valentine is said to have performed a miracle by restoring the sight of his guard’s blind daughter. On the evening before his execution he wrote the first ever Valentines card to the now fully-sighted girl, signing himself off as ‘Your Valentine.’
Valentines Day cards
These days, we send more than one billion Valentines Day cards worldwide. Approximately 150 million Valentines Day cards are exchanged every year in the UK and the US alone which makes Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending date in the calendar after Christmas.
Paper Valentines Day cards became so popular in the early 19th century that they were mass-produced in factories. Elaborate, fancy Valentines greetings cards were made with real lace and ribbons. In 1835 an astonishing 60,000 Valentines Day cards were sent by post in Britain.
In the United States, the first mass-produced Valentines Day cards made of embossed paper lace were produced and sold in around 1847, by Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts whose father ran a large stationery store. She took her inspiration from an English Valentines Day card she’d been sent by one of her dad’s colleagues.
The Valentines Day dating game
If you decide to ask someone out by text this Valentines Day, you are not alone! Nearly 50 per cent of males now ask females out by text – only a very brave, 15 per cent minority actually ask their dates out face-to-face! On the other hand, 83 per cent of females would prefer a handwritten letter or card rather than a text or email, as they see hand-written letters as much more romantic than electronically sent messages.
Almost 70 percent of single males spend Valentines Day on their own but only 32 percent of females spend Valentines Day alone.
Around 10 per cent of all marriage proposals happen on Valentines Day every year.
The Valentines Day downside
More than 50 per cent of females say they would dump a boyfriend or partner who forgets to give them a Valentines Day gift!
Unsurprisingly, the number of people who file for divorce rises by 40 per cent every year around Valentines Day!
Origins of the red heart symbol
The most recognisable shorthand symbol for love, the red heart, may have its origins in the Middle Ages, when artists and scientists attempted to reproduce drawings they had seen in ancient medical books. The human heart has long been associated with feelings of love and the shape drawn by artists and scientists was eventually adopted as the symbol of romance and medieval courtly love. The stylised red heart shape became very popular during the Renaissance, when it was used in religious art to depict the Sacred Heart of Christ and was also used as one of the four suits in packs of playing cards. By the 19th century, the red heart symbol had become a recurring motif used on Valentines Day cards and is still used today on thousands of everyday products including clothing, crockery and ceramics, jewellery, bags, food items and sweets.