Do you have memories of what Valentine’s Day meant to you as a child? For many, it was a day to look forward to. For others, not so much.
It might surprise you to know that Valentine was an early Christian saint who was burnt at the stake for his practice of wedding Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry.The concept of romantic or courtly love began later, in the Middle Ages and has been with us ever since. Symbols of affection consisted of winged cupids, keys, hearts and doves and we see these on Valentines even today.
The Victorians married (pardon the pun) the concept of romantic love with commerce and brought the production of Valentine’s Day cards to a whole new level with intricate craftsmanship and sentimental poetry. Here’s what’s written inside the card you see shown above:
A love so fond and true,
A Heart of honest truth,
I send, dear one to you,
A humble gift – in sooth,
What happiness would fill my breast,
If you would put my love to test!
Because the cards were a tangible declaration of affection to the people who received them, they were often saved. Many cards are to be found in our grandmothers’ personal papers. (few men kept these mementos) Most cards were signed in ink and unfortunately, many of these eventually found their way to the waste paper bin. The cards that have survive (for some strange reason) and that are the most collectible today, are the ones that were signed in pencil. This allowed, presumably, the person who received the card to recycle it the next year. (I wonder if people ever received their own cards back?) Those without signatures are what collectors want today. The examples shown here have no signature and retail from $20 to $40 apiece depending on their intricacy.
Back to my opening statement. The number of Valentine cards that a child received was often viewed as an indication of their popularity among peers. Bragging rights belonged to the person who received the most cards and no doubt this meant that some were left out. There are many today who would like to ban the practice of giving Valentines in schools but a better practice, in my opinion, would be to remind children how important it is to be kind and loving towards others. The world is full of nastiness, and any opportunity to be reminded about love should be celebrated, in the most commercial or non-commercial way a person chooses to do so.