February 14 is Valentine’s Day – a day when children give Valentine cards to their friends and adults send traditional greeting cards and Valentine’s ecards. The story of how this tradition started goes way back in history to the third century when Saint Valentine was martyred because he would not give up his Christian religion. He sent a farewell note to his friend, his jailer’s daughter to be exact, and signed it “From your Valentine”. A few centuries later, the date became the day on which Christians honored this saint as St. Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day became a day for lovers and on this day men and women sent anonymous notes to their loved ones. It became a day of celebrating love and friendship with parties and festivities of all kinds. Each country had its own traditions. In England, children dressed in adult clothing and went from home to home singing short love songs. In Wales, the tradition was to give gifts of wooden spoons decorated with hearts. Keys and keyholes became popular decorations meaning that the key would unlock one’s heart.
Some Valentine’s traditions throughout the world gave rise to common sayings that we use today. For example the saying “to wear your heart on your sleeve” means that you are telling everyone how you feel about a person. This saying dates back to the Middle Ages and the custom of choosing the name of your Valentine from a hat and wearing that person’s name on your sleeve for a week. There are also superstitions associated with Valentine’s Day. If a single woman sees a dove flying overhead on that day, this is supposed to mean that she will marry a sailor. It the bird was a sparrow, then she would marry a poor man.
A lady by the name of Esther Howland in the United States is credited with sending the first traditional Valentine’s Day greeting card. In the 1880’s the first greeting cards for this occasion were mass produced and sold in stores. Today there are all kinds of greeting cards for this special day with poems and verses devoted to love and friendship.