15 February 2012

Valentine's Day: Full of rose petals and corny cards

Unless you've been hiding away with a packet of Maltesers avoiding the day or been hanging out with Lance Armstrong on the moon, you will know that yesterday was the big day, no Christmas hasn't come around again and nor does Asos have a 90% sale on, I'm talking about Valentine's Day. February the 14th can fill people with dread and make them go and buy a Bridget Jones boxset and a box of Fox's biscuits to cry into. Or it can fill you with happiness of celebrating your oh so perfect relationship with your boyfriend and being excited about what you will receive from him and wonder whether all that leaving magazine pages open and sticking pictures of your favourite perfume on the fridge have paid off.
For men it fills them with panic when they realize at 4pm on February the 13th that tomorrow is the big day and they haven't even gota card. The next step involves a hurried trip down Oxford Street to get their girl the perfect present, or at least something that will not make their girl want to break up with them, a hoover is just out of the question, regardless whether it has turbo power or not.

So when did this mix of emotions and rushing to the shops to get anything better then a toaster start? It can be taken back to Ancient Rome when between the 13th-15th February people celebrated the pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia, which was a celebration of love. It is believed that young men would strip naked and use goat or dog skin whips to hit the bottoms of young women in order to improve their fertility, sounds like the Ancient Rome's version of bondage. How whipping a girl would improve her popping a kid out ability I do not know.
In 496 AD Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set the date as the 14th, maybe a football match was on the other days or something or a good episode of Eastenders was on. The pope made the feast day in honour of St Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd Century, this is the man that Valentine's Day is meant to honour, although I doubt anyone has honoured him on this day for about 300 years, jewellery and chocolate are just so much more appealing.

The wedding party pooper
It is not known for sure whether the Pope was honouring the 3rd century priest, or two other martyred bishops with the same name that were too associated with the 14th February, so as Mummy Second Hand Rose says, it is a small world. It's believed that he was honouring the priest who was executed by Emperor Claudius II for conducting illegitimate wedding ceremonies for soldiers. The Emperor had prohibited young men getting married, because he felt they were more attached to their families and would not make good soldiers. I can't really see a soldier going into battle with a rusk in one pocket and washing up gloves in the other, can you?

He believed that marriage made the men weak, us women may gradually take our man's masculinity away by getting them to do the hoovering, cook a meal and heaven forbid do the ironing once in a while, but it certainly doesn't make them weak.

The Romans weren't too fond on the ban of marriage, but they didn't need to worry because in stepped Valentine with his cupid bow, I don't think he was wearing just a loin cloth though. He saw the upset that the ban caused between couples and when they wanted to marry, Valentine joined them in the sacrament of matrimony, marriage basically. Valentine married many happy couples but eventually Claudius found out about him and chucked him in prison. He refused to agree with the ban on marriage or believe in Roman gods, so the emperor had his head chopped off on the 14th February 270 AD, how very romantic.

We have a group of loved up Romans to thanks for celebrating the 14th February which became the day for all lovers and Valentine became it's Patron Saint. They began the card craze by sending handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines to the women that they admired. Nowadays you'd be lucky enough to get a scrap of paper with 'U up 4 it luv?' scribbled on it. This is when the day became known as St. Valentines Day, let the drowning your sorrows in your third bottle of wine or getting a toaster from your man begin.

But when did the lavish 'I'll spend a months rent' gift giving start? By the 18th century gift giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made cards were decorated with lace and ribbons and featured cupids and hearts, no rude jokes or innunendos in sight.
history of valentines day - featureIn 1797 'The Young Man's Valentine Writer' was published, it containted rhymes and messages for men to put in cards to their valentine's, no more awkward message and non-rhyming poems.

This tradition spread to the American colonies and in 1840 cards began to be commercially produced in the U.S. Early cards manufactured in factories were black and white pictures painted by workers. The first cards that were sold were created by Esther Howland in 1847 that were made with real lace, paper lace and ribbons, no hedgehogs kissing or meerkats smooching to be seen. By the end of the 1800's cards began being manufactured by machines and a card company called Norcross became one of the first companies to manufacture Valentine's cards, so we have them to thank for the pop up heart cards and out of tune 'I love youuuu' singing cards.

By the 1900's Valentine's Day got a lot of attention and was publicised a lot in magazines with articles on 'cupid's holiday'. As you can imagine talking to the opposite sex or jumping on them and telling them how much you want their babies was not really socially acceptable then, even if they did look like David Beckham. So when the 14th of February came around it was acceptable for both men and women to tell each other how they felt or at least look at each other for more them 5 seconds.
Children also sent Valentine's along with adults. Store bought cards were expensive, so out came the PVA and sticky tape and men and women exchanged handmade cards, that I'm sure took them at least two hours to make. Have you ever tried to cut the perfect heart out? Total nightmare. Women's cards were very decorative with lace and ribbons. Men's cards were simpler containing a poem, I can't really see a man beautifully sticking lace and ribbon on a card, can you? Poetry was very popular then and love letters often contained long poems.

I have half a heart
And you have the other
Let's make a whole one
By putting them together.
File:Esther Howland 1850.jpg

Early 1900's
I have some Kleenex or a sick bucket on hand if anyone needs one. Here is a selection of Valentine's cards through the years.
Early 1900's








Oh how times have changed...

In the 1900's men gave small gifts to their ladies, mainly flowers of chocolates in heart shaped boxes. Then ladies were happy enough with that, but now some except a Prada bag and a Tiffany necklace, give your man a break ladies, at least he remembered. 
Valentine's day is over-commercialised now with adverts for it starting on the 1st January and every product has a Valentine's twist. What with a set of Valentine's Rubber Ducks, Valentine's toilet paper and Valentine's Lego sets and instructions on how to make hearts, roses and teddy bears holding hearts out of lego. I wouldn't mind those presents actually.

But in the 1900's people organised Valentine's Day parties, where unmarried people could mingle and meet over a sausage roll and a pineapple hedgehog. Rooms were decorated with red paper hearts strung on ribbon or golden cords. Evergreen or southern moss was used as decorations to blend in with the red. There were lots of crepe paper rope in red and white, decorating doorways, pictures and chandeliers. A family friend would dress up like Cupid and games were played. Not those sort of games and no car keys on tables were involved.

Now we don't go so extreme to hold parties or pull the short straw and dress up in a loin cloth with a bow, but the tradition of celebrating your love with your partner is still going strong, either that or crying over a pack of Minstrels or even watching a horror film, whatever takes your fancy.
For future reference if you're single on Valentine's don't use too many Kleenex or spend all day looking like a Panda, you can always buy the Dream Man Arm Pillow to cuddle up to without having to deal with the snoring and duvet hogging and have a few giggles over the Cookie Sutra with your girly friends.

So I hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day whether you are single or not, but remember sending Valentine's cards to yourself from your cat really isn't cool, not that I ever have.

Second Hand Rose


  1. Thank you for all your lovely comments on my blog, I'm now following yours. The Lime Crime lippy looks exactly the way it does online, unfortunately the camera I was using at the time wouldn't let me show the lipstick off in its true style xxxx

  2. I love your blog! I followed! I would love it if you could check out my blog and follow me? Thanks so much!

  3. Thanks for your sweet comments! What a lovely interesting post xo

  4. Fabulous post, darling!
    Love the history and all those vintage valentines!


  5. My dear,
    first of all I’d like to thank you for having visited and comment on my blog. I came to pay you a visit as well and I am really delighted with yours. It's beautiful, well structured, interesting, sweet amazing [probably your own qualities right?] and it has completely got me hooked, so I'm your new follower now... i think we're going to get along just fine! ;)
    I'd like to invite you to follow mine as well. I’d be very pleased.

    I wish you lots of success and will surely come back often.



  6. Thanks , hon, for stopping by nd for those wonderful comments!!You have an amazing blog too and I'm following you!!
    Juneli from Fashionably Yours

  7. I absolutely love this post, it made me smile so much, and I love how interesting and historical your posts are! I can always rely on you fill my frazzling brain with more juicy facts!!

    The arm pillow really did make me laugh. It's fairly worrying that my first thought was 'where can I get one of those?!' Evidently, it's been a little while since I had a cuddle from a hunky man!

    Love your blog, and you! You are an absolutely fantastic writer and I know you're going to go so far!! Xx


I hope you have enjoyed my scribblings! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think, they will be repeated constantly to anyone who will listen! Don't forget to click the follow button and add me on Twitter @Second_HandRose and Instagram: second_handrose XxxX