The idea that Valentine’s Day, which falls annually on February 14, was a cynical gamble by greeting card companies, came up with a line of dialogue in the 2004 Jim Carrey/Kate Winslet romance “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”.
“Valentine’s Day is a holiday invented by the greeting card companies to make people feel like crap,” Carrey’s character, Joel, declared.
It’s a pithy line and encapsulates the cynicism some may feel about the holidays, during which those in romantic relationships often demonstrate their affection with things like flowers, cards, gifts, and candy. There’s no doubt that the holidays are a good day for card companies, as well as candy makers, jewelry retailers and restaurants.
But is it true that they invented it?
The origins of Valentine’s Day are obscure, but it seems safe to say that the holiday began as a day of appreciation for romantic relationships long before card companies, as they exist today, swooped in. imply. Although some point to a violent fertility festival in ancient Rome called Lupercalia as a possible origin, others Remark that at least two saints named Valentine were executed by the Roman Empire in the third century AD
It’s popular belief that Valentine’s Day is a religious holiday centered around a saint named Valentine.
History professor Lisa Bitel, however, noted that this belief does not hold up to scrutiny. She wrote in 2018, it was more than 1,000 years after those executions that the romantic association with February 14 appeared in the work of ‘Canterbury Tales’ author Geoffrey Chaucer. Bitel noted:
It seems that in Chaucer’s day, English birds mated to produce eggs in February. Soon, nature-conscious European nobility began sending love notes during the mating season. For example, the French Duke of Orleans, who spent some years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to his wife in February 1415 that he was “already sick with love” (by which he meant lovesick ). And he called her his “very nice Valentine”.
The English public embraced the idea of the mating in February. Ophelia, in love with Shakespeare, presented herself as the Valentine of Hamlet.
Over the following centuries, the English and the English began to use February 14 as an excuse to write verses to their love objects. Industrialization made things easier with mass-produced picture cards adorned with smarmy poetry. Then came Cadbury, Hershey’s and other chocolate manufacturers marketing sweets for his beloved on Valentine’s Day.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it was not up to the 1700s that card sellers began selling commercially printed valentines. “The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s,” according to the Britannica.
While it cannot be said that the holiday was “invented” by greeting card companies, the mass production of cards seems to have played a key role in its popularity in the United States.
Boston-based WCVB television station reported that the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated today is due, at least in large part, to the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, and an entrepreneur named Esther Howland. Howland “began making her first valentines in 1848 with an assembly-line operation. She first advertised her business in 1852.”
Samples of Howland’s handwork included in the WCVB article meticulously show-detailed lace designs. She then merged her business with that of Jonathan Taft, forming NEVco. Hallmark didn’t burst onto the scene until 1910, and the company has begun mass-produce printed Valentine’s Day cards soon after.
« Valentine’s Day | Definition, history and traditions. British. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day. Accessed February 14, 2022.
Bitel, Lisa. “The ‘real’ Valentine was not the patroness of love.” The Conversation, February 13, 2018, http://theconversation.com/the-real-st-valentine-was-no-patron-of-love-90518.
Len Catron, Mandy. “Five Myths About Valentine’s Day.” Washington Post, February 8, 2019, www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths/five-myths-about-valentines-day/2019/02/08/6f5ddaac-29c4-11e9 -b2fc-721718903bfc_story.html.