Is Valentine's Day a Hallmark Day?

Is Valentine’s Day a Hallmark Day?

A. No, because we’re women, and romance writers, so we believe in romance.

B. No, because it’s an American Greetings Day.

C. No, because it’s a religious holiday.

D. All of the above.

Ha! You all picked D, right?

Start with the name - Valentine. There were one or two of them dating from Roman times. What everyone seems to agree on is they were both martyred priests and there’s no sentimental love story attached to either of them. (There’s irony for you; Valentine’s Day is named after a Catholic priest.)

Go back even farther. There was a pagan holiday known as Lupercalia (yes, based on wolves, but I won’t digress there). The festival of Lupercalia was a fertility celebration in which the unmarried men would draw the names of women from an urn. The woman chosen had to be their sexual partner for the next year. Interesting, if disturbing.

When Christianity took hold, the Christians co-opted many pagan holidays and the feast of Lupercalia (held on Feb. 15) was one of them. The Catholic Church moved the date to the 14th, associated it with the saint Valentine, and King Henry the Eighth (he of the steadfast heart, you know) actually made it a holiday by royal proclamation in 1537.

Fast forward to the 20th century and the American Greetings Card Company
“provided” this story: On the evening before Valentine was to be executed (for being a Christian priest in Roman times), he wrote a note to his “beloved” (remember the Catholic priest part) who was either an anonymous young girl or the daughter of his jailer (your choice). The note was signed (so says American Greetings; no one has ever seen the mythical note), “from your Valentine”.

I have to say, I think all of us could have made up a better story.

But what I find interesting is that a pagan fertility celebration, having been interrupted by a martyred saint or two has now returned to a celebration of romantic love. I was also surprised to learn that people have been exchanging Valentine’s Day cards for centuries.

These are from Victorian England.

So, now what? Well, here’s where women who love romance enter the tale. Where there’s a card, a gift must follow. Correct? So if your sweetie is looking for an idea (and what man is not?) what could be better than a hot story to get the home fires burning?




valentine day gifts said...

I bit agree with valentine day is hallmark day.

Nicole North said...

Interesting history, Carly! Thanks for sharing. I love Valentine's gifts from my sweetie. :)