Believing that birds began to mate on February 14, people in the Middle Ages started the card tradition by sending love letters on that day.


February 14 is Valentine’s Day. Although it is celebrated as a lovers’ holiday today, with the giving of candy, Valentine flowers, or other gifts between couples in love, it originated in 5th Century Rome as a tribute to St. Valentine, a Catholic bishop.


      In the 15th century, singing and spoken valentines were slowly replaced by written letters in Europe. The first written valentine is credited to Charles, the Duke of Orleans, who wrote love poems to his wife while he was in prison in 1415. By the beginning of the 16th century, valentines were almost always written.

      Early valentines were hand made on colored paper. Often they were tinted with water colors and inks. Other types of valentines found during this era were:


– Acrostic – the first line of the verses spelled out the recipient’s name
– Cutout – the paper was folded and cut into a lace-like design using small, pointed scissors.
– Pinprick – using a pin or needle, tiny holes were punched in the paper to make it look like lace.
– Theorem or Poonah – a stencil was used to help paint on designs that stood for words. For example, the word foot would be replaced by a picture of a foot.
– Puzzle Purse – the paper was a folded puzzle with verses written in the folds. Each verse must be read in a specific order and the puzzle refolded correctly.
– Fraktur – the letters were written in a decorative style to imitate the illuminated manuscripts used in the Middle Ages.

      The 1800s saw valentines made by factory workers. Black and white pictures were painted by the workers in the early part of the century. By the end of the 1800s, the cards were made by machines. These cards were elaborately decorated with gold leaf, satin, lace and flowers.
      In 1840, the first mass produced valentine’s cards where made in America. Esther Howland, who sold $5,000 worth of the cards in her first year, created them.


Some facts about Valentine’s Cards
180 million

Number of Valentine’s Day cards exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second-most popular greeting-card-giving occasion. (This total excludes packaged kids valentines for classroom exchanges.) (Source: Hallmark research)


Nearly 50 percent

Typically, the proportion of all Valentine’s Day cards purchased in the six days prior to the observance, making Valentine’s Day a procrastinator’s delight. (Source: Hallmark research)


About 40%

Proportion of all Valentine card purchases which parents account for. (Source: Hallmark research.)

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