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The History of Writing Valentine’s Day Cards

The idea of celebrating love on the 14th of February spawned from a popular account concerning St. Valentine of Rome. It was reported that he performed weddings for Roman soldiers who were, at the time, forbidden to marry. Valentine was later imprisoned for these actions, but made a connection with his jailer by allegedly healing his ailing daughter. Before Valentine’s scheduled execution he wrote the jailer’s daughter a letter and signed the paper “your Valentine” – hence, the first Valentine’s Day card and early history of Valentine’s Day.

From the History of Valentine’s Day to Modern Day

In our modern era, Valentine’s Day is characterized by red-tinged gift boxes, bouquets of roses, shiny gifts, romantic dinners, and other gestures of love. Jewelry stores look at the month of February as their big “holiday season,” while florists work around the clock – prepping for what is certainly the busiest sales week of the year.

Millions of festive individuals, spanning ages from three to a hundred and three, put pen to paper and scribe Valentine’s Day cards for loved ones and lovers alike. It is this last activity that encapsulates the modern spirit of Valentine’s Day – the profession of love and admiration through the written word.

But how and when exactly did the action of writing Valentine’s Day cards and exchanging gifts become commonplace?

From Chaucer to Chocolates – In mid-eighteenth century England, it became quite common for admiring individuals to exchange flowers, confectioneries, and send greeting cards on Valentine’s Day. During this time, individuals may have also sent “Saint Valentine’s keys” to one another, with the message being – “unlock your loving heart.” These keys were also used to ward off epilepsy, which was then known as Saint Valentine’s malady. Modern jewelry stores frequently offer similar trinkets – though few recipients today are likely to don a Saint Valentine’s key to minimize medical concerns.

Today, the act of giving gifts is wide-reaching, but few individuals know that the first connection of Valentine’s Day with romantic love was in the work entitled Parlement of Foules (1382), by Geoffrey Chaucer. This poem was written to recognize the first anniversary of the engagement of Anne of Bohemia to King Richard II of England.

Valentine’s Day Cards by the Millions – The phenomenon of mechanical automation ushered in a new era of Valentine’s card creation in the 18th century. The book entitled, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer (1797), gave ideas to young men who were unable to come up with creative messages for Valentine’s Day. But early 19th-century England saw high-volume production of preformatted Valentine’s Day cards that were available with a variety of romantic messages.

More than 60,000 Valentine’s Day cards were sent in 1835 in Britain, while today more than 150 million cards are sent each Valentine’s Day – just in America! Today, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday for sending cards after the Christmas holiday.

Options are virtually limitless – Hallmark alone offers more than 1,400 varieties of Valentine’s Day greeting cards each year, and many of these are left blank on the inside to allow the love-struck writer to create a moving and personal verse. While according to CNN.com, 29% of individuals today will send a romantic text message on Valentine’s Day, the majority will put pen to paper.

Now that you know the history of Valentine’s Day, embrace the power of the handwritten word and create a touching and heartfelt message for your beloved!

National Pen

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