Love is in the Air, and Cupid is firing his arrows everywhere! Happy Valentines! With Valentine's Day's arrival, it seems appropriate to share its history.
The most common explanation connects the modern celebration of Valentine's Day with the Christian Feast of Saint Valentine, but specific details vary. Perhaps it is related to the Roman prohibition of soldiers marrying Christian women and the martyrdom of a priest who ignored that prohibition.
Other explanations refer to the idea that birds mate in early spring, which is considered romantic. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in 1382, For this was on seynt Volantynys day When euery bryd comyt there to chese his make, or as translated, "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."
However it may have begun, February 14th is certainly a romantic tradition today. The history of the exchange of Valentine cards is better known. As early as the 1700s, special notes and letters were exchanged, but the exchange of printed cards began in the mid-1800s, perhaps first in England but soon adopted in America, particularly after the Civil War.
Some of the cards were quite elaborate, with hidden gifts such as jewelry inside. Other valentines were given the name of "Puzzle Purses," which consisted of a series of love letters which collectively could be arranged to make a beautiful design or convey a message.
Of course, the gift of chocolates remains a popular valentine gift, and I remember the elaborate chocolate boxes that were so beautiful and well built that they became treasured keepsake boxes once the chocolates were gone.
Another gift from clever young men who want to be sure they always remember their engagement date is giving yjeir beloveds an engagement ring on Valentine's Day, the typical stone given today being a diamond. The first documented example of a diamond engagement ring dates back to 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, a diamond ring. Upper class couples copied the tradition, and in 1866 when diamonds were first found in South Africa, that discovery eventually lead to diamonds that were more affordable for less affluent young men to give their sweethearts.
In the United States, after W.W. I and especially during the Great Depression, diamonds declined in popularity. Gradually the popularity of diamond engagement rings has returned, as most of us know, and in most cases what follows is marriage. The image at the top of this blog page is of a wedding dress advertised in 1892. I thought it would be fun to go online to find examples of what a bride might chose for her wedding in 2020. Traditional gowns remain popular, but I thought you might enjoy seeing some less traditional choices! Happy Valentine's Day.