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Happy Valentine's Day
from Homespun and
Country Kitchen!


The holiday of Valentine's Day
probably derives its origins from
the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalia.
In the early days of Rome,
fierce wolves roamed the woods nearby.

The Romans called upon one of their gods,
Lupercus, to keep the wolves away.
A festival held in honor of Lupercus
was celebrated February 15th.

The festival was celebrated as a spring festival.
Their calendar was different at that time,
with February falling in early springtime.

One of the customs of the
young people was name-drawing.
On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia
the names of Roman girls were written
on slips of paper and placed into jars.

Each young man drew a slip.
The girl whose name was chosen
was to be his sweetheart for the year.

Legend has it that the holiday became
Valentine's Day after a priest named Valentine.
Valentine was a priest in Rome
at the time Christianity was a new religion.

The Emperor at that time,
Claudius II, ordered the Roman soldiers
NOT to marry or become engaged.
Claudius believed that as married men,
his soldiers would want to stay home with
their families rather than fight his wars.

Valentine defied the Emperor's decree
and secretly married the young couples.
He was eventually arrested,
imprisoned, and put to death.

Valentine was beheaded on February 14th,
the eve of the Roman holiday Lupercalia.
After his death, Valentine was named a saint.

As Rome became more Christian,
the priests moved the spring holiday from the
15th of February to the 14th - Valentine's Day.
Now the holiday honored
Saint Valentine instead of Lupercus.


Verses and Valentine greetings were
popular as far back as the Middle Ages,
when lovers said or sang their valentines.
Written valentines began to appear after 1400.

The oldest "valentine" in existence was made
in the 1400's and is in the British Museum.
Paper valentines were exchanged
in Europe where they were
given in place of valentine gifts.

Paper valentines were
especially popular in England.
Early valentines were made by hand
and were made with colored paper,
watercolors, and colored inks.

There were many different types of
handmade valentines,


Acrostic valentines -
- had verses in which the first lines
spelled out the loved one's name.

Cutout valentines -
- made by folding the paper several times
and then cutting out a lacelike design
with small, sharp, pointed scissors.

Pinprick valentines -
- made by pricking tiny holes
in a paper with a pin or needle,
creating the look of lace.

Theorem or Poonah valentines -
- designs that were painted
through a stencil cut in oil paper,
a style that came from the Orient.

Rebus valentines -
- verses in which tiny pictures
take the place of some of the words.
(an eye would take the place of the word I)

Puzzle Purse valentines -
- a folded puzzle to read and refold.
Among their many folds were verses
that had to be read in a certain order.

Fraktur valentines -
- had ornamental lettering
in the style of illuminated manuscripts
of the Middle Ages.

In the early 1800's, valentines
began to be assembled in factories.
Early manufactured valentines were
black and white pictures that
were painted by workers in a factory.

Fancy valentines were made
with real lace and ribbons,
with paper lace introduced in the mid 1800's.
By the end of the 1800's valentines
were being made entirely by machine.

In the early 1900's
a card company named Norcross
began to manufacture valentines.
Each year Hallmark displays its collection
of rare and antique valentines
at card shops around the country.
Museums and Libraries also
offer antique valentine exhibitions
around St. Valentine's Day.

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This page was last updated June 24, 2002.