The Complex History of Cards and Candy Hearts


Photo Credit: Hallmark Cards

A retro Hallmark Valentine’s Day card from the 1940’s.

Sienna Rock, Reporter

On February 14th, 496 A.D Valentine’s Day was celebrated for the first time in ancient Rome. Although people mainly associate Valentine’s Day with gifts and romance, there is a lot of history in the holiday. There are many different stories of how Valentine’s Day came to be, but it’s believed to have started with a man named St. Valentine. 

The most common belief is that St. Valentine was a priest who married young couples in private. In ancient Rome, Emperor Claudius the 2nd banned marriages so that soldiers could focus on being better soldiers. However, St. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriages. When the emperor found out, he was outraged. St. Valentine was imprisoned, but during this time, he healed his captor’s blind daughter and fell in love with her. He was sent to be tortured and put to death on February 14th, but before his execution, he sent the girl a letter and signed it “Your Valentine”. This story is what many relate Valentine’s Day cards and gifts back to. There are also other stories about who St.Valentine was, but they all paint him out to be a hero. 

The story of St. Valentine is the most popular one, however, there are also completely different stories about how Valentine’s Day came to be. Some historians believe that Valentine’s Day started when people were trying to make  Lupercalia, a pagan holiday, more Chrisitan. Lupercalia is usually celebrated on February 15th. It’s an ancient Roman fertility festival to help purify and help keep the city safe. The beginning of the holiday is filled with sacrifices and rituals that don’t necessarily pertain to Valentine’s Day. However, at the end of the day, females write their names and place them into a big urn. Single men in the city would draw a name, date that woman for a year, and usually end up marrying them. This side of the holiday can relate a little bit better to how we commonly think of Valentine’s Day. Eventually, Lupercalia was banned, and some believe it was so that Valentine’s Day could take over. Nonetheless, Valentine’s Day has developed a lot through the years and wasn’t always celebrated the way we do now. 

The Middle Ages is when Valentine’s Day started to become a holiday based on romance and love. Valentine’s Day cards and romantic poems began to appear. The first-ever written Valentine’s Day card was from Charles the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned. From there, romantic cards and poetry slowly started to emerge. People would make cards by hand, decorating them with flowers and hearts. In the early 19th-century, Valentine’s day cards started to become mass-produced. These cards had intricate designs, and the more intricate, the more expensive the card was. In the mid and late 19th-century, Valentine’s Day began to be commercialized. Hallmark Cards produced their first Valentine’s Day cards and more elaborate cards were produced. From there, Valentine’s Day continued to grow and revolve around love. 

Because Valentine’s Day has been around for so long, historians don’t have a definite answer to how this holiday came to be. However, these are the common stories and beliefs of how Valentine’s Day started and developed into the holiday it is today.