Where did the tradition of Valentine's Day cards come from?
Every year millions of Valentine's Day cards are given across the country, but why do we choose to give a card to show our love? I decided to do a little research to find out when this tradition began...
Legend has it
Lovers have been giving cards to show their love since the middle ages, but legend has it that it started a long time before. The Catholic patron saint of love, young people and happy marriages, St Valentine, was believed to have been a Roman priest named Valentinus. Whilst in prison for his beliefs Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's daughter (and apparently fell in love with) and on the eve of his execution, he wrote a goodbye note to her and signed it 'From your Valentine'. It is believed that he was executed on February 14. Years later around 498 A.D Pope Gelasius honoured the executed priest and declared February 14 as St Valentine's Day.
It started with a poem
It wasn't until nearly 1,000 years later that the connection between love and February 14 came into existence. It is believed that the poem, The Parlement of Foules, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century which describes a conference of birds that meet to choose their mates on St Valentine's Day, is where the connection was first made. Soon after, lovers began to refer to St Valentine's Day in their letters to each other.
Bringing it to the masses
The idea of sending a paper love note became increasingly popular in the early 1800's with cards being produced in factories across England. It's estimated that 200,000 Valentine's Day cards were given each year by 1825. When the 'Penny Post' was introduced in 1840, sending a card or letter became affordable and not just for the rich, meaning that by 1871, 1.2 million cards had been sent through the Post Office of London!
As we know it today
In the early 1900's, the concept of sending a Valentine's Day card really started to take off and had now crossed the Atlantic ocean. In 1910, J.C Hall founded Hallmark Cards which saw affordable Valentine's Day cards on shop shelves in 1916. And the rest as they say is history!