Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you know what that means! Chocolate and flowers go hand and hand in Valentine’s Day celebrations. When I was a little girl, I always awoke on Valentine’s Day to find a big red box of candy at the end of my bed. It was from my dad. My favorite box had a doll on the front. To this day I wish I would have saved them all. That’s a tall order to live up to as you become an adult woman. One begins to expect things…
Valentine’s Day goes back to the third century when it was originally the ancient pagan Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used to observed annually on February 15. The Catholic church began to rename pagan holidays with those of Catholic saints so people would still be celebrating, only what they were celebrating was suppose to be different. I suppose fertility and love are pretty close enough not to matter.
Valentine’s Day Enrobed Truffles
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14 just to confuse people just enough to not question why. He proclaimed February 14 the feast day of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine’s Day honors. A lot happened of the course of centuries to Valentine’s Day and the who, what, why and where of the whole thing. What is most intriguing is that it was not until the 14th century that Valentine’s Day actually became a holiday for lovers – current or would be. In medieval France and England, it was believed that birds mated on February 14. My bet is they were simply cold and people started talking. Romance and Valentine’s Day continued through the Middle Ages and continued to evolve as all holidays and traditions do.
Esther Howland Valentine 1850
By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine’s Day had become common throughout England. The hand-made valentine cards were made from leftover lace and ribbons, and featured cupids and hearts. These cards were then given as tokens to the man or woman one loved. The tradition arrived in America where we feel the need to mass produce. In 1840, the first Valentine’s Day cards were mass produced for retail sale in America. Esther A. Howland is considered the mother of the Valentine’s Day card in the United States. She made elaborate cards with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures. It was when Howland began Valentine’s cards in mass production that the tradition really caught on in the United States. When I say mass produced, you have to keep in mind that the Valentine’s Day cards were still all made by hand. In 1913, Hallmark released its first Valentine’s Day card.
1887 Whitney Valentine
Today Valentine’s Day is celebrated throughout the world. Kind gestures and homemade cards evolved into dining out, flowers, diamonds and, of course, chocolate. Chocolate is thought to be given as a gift for its aphrodisiac properties, but who really know if it works. Chocolate does make you feel good and, for that matter, getting any gift makes you feel good! The first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates is credited to Richard Cadbury, of the famous British chocolate family, in London in 1868. Cadbury denied this claim stating that the box was simply a way to showcase his chocolate. Others say it was a special gift for his daughter that caught on. Bravo, Mr Cadbury! The box was romantic and of the Victorian style of its time. 75% of the chocolate sold during the year is purchased by woman. Over Valentine’s Day, 75% is purchased by men. No surprise there, although the men I know would love a good box as well. Over $1 billion of chocolate is purchase for Valentine’s Day. I don’t know about you, but I love receiving chocolates any time of year, but Valentine’s Day makes it a bit more special.