Let there be love! The history of Valentine's Day

Posted by postmark on 24/01/19

The New Year is well underway and we're looking forward to the arrival of the Spring season's starting with the loveeeeely Valentine's Day.

Noi Valentine's CardNow Valentine's Day comes in for a fair bit of criticism as an overly commercial day, which perhaps is not unfair in some parts, but what most people might not realise is that the day has a rich history stretching back as far as the Roman Empire.

Back then the February 14th was part of a longer three day fertility festival during which the men would sacrifice sheep and use the skins to whip women believing that this would increase fertility! Think I'd rather stick to the card and flowers please.

When Christianity began to flourish in the area they decided to make February 14th a Saint's day in an attempt to reclaim the festival for Christianity, something they did across the pagan calendar.  Although unproven it's been claimed the saint this day is named after - Valentine - was imprisoned for helping other prisoners. While Louise Mulgrew Valentine's cardincarcerated he fell in love with his jailors daughter and sent her a note signing off - 'from your Valentine'. While it's highly unlikely that this ever happened it has inspired a sense of romance around this date.

It wasn't until the 15th century that Valentine's began to take off as a major celebration of love.  First at the French court where a lavish three day banquet would be held. This tradition seems to have spread to the UK as the British Library holds the oldest known Valentine's card sent by one Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. In this letter Margery describes John as her “right well-beloved Valentine”.

Sending cards to mark this Saint's day really took off in the 18th century. These were mainly handmade efforts decorated with love knots and verses and slipped secretly Stop the Clock - Valentine's Ballonunder someone's door. The arrival of the industrial revolution in the 19th century changed all this and allowed Valentine's cards to be made on an industrial scale. For Victorians the more eleborate the card, and the more you were seen to have spent on it, meant the stronger you love for your Valentine.

Jonathan King was a card manufacturer during this time and collected an impressive 1,700 Valentine's cards which are now housed Museum of London. The modernisation of the British postal system meant it was now affordable for most people to send a card through the post leading to a huge increase in Valentine's Day cards being sent. In 1820 an estimated 200,000 were sent in London alone.

Around this time 'Vinegar Valentine's' also became popular. These insulting Valentine's cards would be sent to amuse and were often sent by men to their friends.

Funny Valentine's CardAs more people began to travel and emigrate the Valentine's card made it's way to America where it became hugely popular. This then lead to the real commercialisation of Valentine's Day that we know today which includes not only sending cards but flowers, chocolates and the giving of gifts.

At Postmark we're just sticking with the old fashioned Valentine's card and this year we've got a great selection including some great funny Valentine's cards.

You can check them out here

See you soon

Mrs PM



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