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Jeeves' Journal

Very brief history of Valentine's cards

Very brief history of Valentine's cards

There’s nothing new about sending Valentine’s cards. It’s a tradition which dates all the way back to 1477, when Margery Brews from Norfolk, England, wrote a letter to John Paston, addressing him as ‘my right well beloved Valentine’. 

But who was St Valentine, why do we celebrate him on February 14th and what has he got to do with love? In this blog, Jeeves & Co. Design Studio will try to answer all these questions and more!

St. Valentine 
While there isn’t a much known about St. Valentine, one of the more romantic versions of his story is that he was a priest from Rome who lived during the third century. 

During Valentine’s life, Roman Emperor Claudius II banned marriages, believing that married men made bad soldiers. Valentine ignored the Emperor’s commandment and continued to arrange Christian ceremonies in secret. 

But Valentine’s secret didn’t stay secret for long and he was imprisoned for his disobedience and sentenced to death for his crimes. 

It is said that Valentine fell in love with the daughter of his jailer and sent her a love letter on the day of his execution, February 14th, signed ‘from your Valentine’. 

Why is there Valentine’s Day?
The origins of Valentine’s Day far predates St Valentine himself and is actually associated with a pagan festival known as Lupercalia. 

Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival which fell in the middle of February every year to celebrate fertility and the start of springtime. 

It is said that boys and girls would draw names out from a box to find out who would be their partner for the festivities and sometimes these festival partners would eventually marry. 

The Christian Church tried and failed to stop people from partaking in this pagan tradition so they decided to convert the festival into a Christian celebration by associating it with St Valentine, whose death had coincided with the annual Lupercalia celebrations. 

Throughout history, famous writers and poets have referenced St Valentine’s Day while linking it love, including Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem ‘Parlement of Foules’ (1382) and William Shakespeare in Hamlet (1603). Gradually the public began to associate the holiday with romance instead of Spring and martyred saints. 

Valentine’s Cards
Lovers have been addressing one another as their Valentine since the middle ages, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that Valentine’s cards started to appear.

Initially, these cards were made by the sender and they would be decorated in romantic symbols, such as love knots, flowers, riddles and poetry. These cards would then be slipped under the recipient’s door or tied to their door-knocker. 

With the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century, rapid advances in printing and manufacturing technologies were made. Pre-made Valentine’s cards became very popular, especially with the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post, which meant that no matter the distance between the sender and the recipient, posting your Valentine’s Day card would always cost the same amount, just as it does today.