Saturday, January 15, 2011

Valentine’s Day: Legends and Fun Facts

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap." According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)
History of Valentine’s Day – The Man Valentine
Some say the day is named after a bishop named Valentine, who was stationed in the Roman Empire.  Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, and outlawed marriage for young men.  Valentine took pity on the ostracized soldiers who were not permitted to marry or see their sweethearts. He defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death on February 14, 270 AD.
According to another legend, Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with his jailor's daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Because of his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.
After his death, Valentine then became what is known as a “Patron Saint.” Some considered him the spiritual overseer of an annual festival in which young Romans would distribute cards of affection to those they wished to formally see. February has been the month to celebrate love ever since the Middle Ages, and February 15 was celebrated in ancient times as a fertility festival. There are Valentine cards in museums worldwide that date back to 1415.

Valentine’s Day Symbols


Rose is one of the most popular flower and one of the most powerful symbols of Valentine's Day. Roses represent beauty, passion and love.

Legend behind Valentine's Day Roses
According to legend, there was once a beautiful maiden by the name of Rodanthe, who was pursued by a number of impassioned suitors. In their desperate pursuit, the lovers broke the doors of Rodanthe's house. This enraged goddess Diana. She turned Rodanthe into a flower and her suitors into thorns.

According to another popular legend in Rome, Cupid was carrying a vase of sweet nectar to the Gods on Mount Olympus and some nectar spilled on the ground. From the spot where the nectar fell emerged the beautiful Rose flower.

An interesting point to notice is that if the letters of the word ‘rose' are rearranged, it comes out to Eros - the God of Love. Red roses are also considered to be a symbol of love and passion and the favorite flower of Venus - the Goddess of Love.

Meaning of Different Colors of Roses
Red Roses - Love and passion
Yellow Roses - Friendship
White Roses - True love and purity of the mind
Pink Roses - Friendship or Sweetheart
Black Roses – Farewell
Lavender -- Enchantment and Uniqueness
Orange – Fascination
Red/White -- Unity or Engagement
Yellow/Orange -- Passionate Thoughts
Peach -- Modesty, Gratitude, Admiration and Sympathy
Pink (Pale) -- Grace, Joy and Happiness
Yellow/Red -- Congratulations

Tea Roses -- "I'll Remember Always"

The heart symbolizes love and giving a heart means to hand over one's existence to someone. A piercing arrow therefore symbolizes death and vulnerability of love. Some people also believe that the heart and arrow symbolizes the uniting of male and a female.

In the 12th Century, people were not aware the function of heart was to circulate blood inside the human body. What they knew was that heart begins to beat faster when a person is upset or excited. They, therefore, derived that heart was the seat of emotions and feelings. Poets also eulogized the role of heart in feelings of love and romance and over the years, and this make believe connection between heart and love became deep seated in the minds of people. A heart pierced by a Cupid's arrow means that when someone presents a heart, the person takes the risk of being rejected and feeling hurt.

The popular expression of 'Wearing one's heart on one's sleeve' comes from a tradition in America and Britain practiced in the 1800s. At that time, young men used to wear slips of paper pinned on their sleeves and had their girlfriend's name written on it.


The winged and mischievous little angel called Cupid is one of the very famous Valentine's Day Symbols, which can be traced to Roman mythology where Cupid has been described as the son of Venus - the Goddess of Love. It is believed that Cupid had a bow with a quiver of arrows and anyone hit by Cupid's arrow fell in love. According to the myth, it was Cupid's mother Venus who would  send him on such errands.

In Greek mythology, Cupid is known by the name of Eros and as the son of Aphrodite - the Greek Goddess of Love. In Roman and Greek mythology Cupid is always shown as a youth and not as a fat baby with wings. In Latin, the meaning of the word ‘Cupid' is desire. Latin mythology shows Cupid as a chubby, naked, winged boy or youth with a mischievous smile and as someone who made people fall in love.

In certain mythologies it is said that anyone shot with a Cupid's arrow falls in love with the first person he/she sees. It is also said that Cupid's arrow was invisible to his victims so that they would not be aware that they were shot until they fell in love.

Lovebirds & Doves

This symbol traces its origin from a belief in the olden times that birds found their mate on February 14. In the Middle Ages, February 14 was described as “The Pairing of the Birds.” Lovers across the world still hold on to this belief.

About Lovebirds
It is said that lovebirds got their names because they sit closely to each other just like people who are in love do. People say that lovebirds can't think of their lives without their mates. Lovebirds are known to keeping in pairs and keeping to themselves just as the young lovers want to live in privacy.
About Doves
A special characteristic of doves and pigeons is their extreme loyalty to their mates. Doves remain with one partner all through their life. Doves signify purity, loyalty, fidelity and love, which is why they are recognized as a symbol of love and loyalty on Valentine's Day. According to a myth, Roman Goddess Venus considered doves as sacred because of its fidelity towards its mate.

Love Knots

Representing love that will last forever, love knots are actually a series of winding and intertwining loops that have neither a beginning nor an end.

Valentine's Day symbol of Love Knots traces its origin to early Arab traditions. Young Muslim women living in strict orthodox households used to express love to young men through secret messages woven through the knots of a carpet. Lovers read the messages by turning the knot around and around. The tradition of sending messages through the knots gave birth to the concept of love knots that exist even to this day.

Some people believe the custom of love knots began with the sailors several years ago. This is because sailors were skilled at making fishnets and so making intricate knots was their forte.


Laces and ribbons are associated with love and romance and can be traced to ancient times. At that time, when kings and knights went to battle, their ladylove presented laces to them.

Another reason lace is attributed to Valentine's Day as a symbol is due to the fact that hundreds of years ago, a lady who accidentally dropped her hanky was accustomed to the  courtesy of a gentleman picking it up for her. Sometimes, ladies would drop their handkerchiefs deliberately in front of a man they liked and wanted to meet. Lace therefore became a tool in the hands of ladies to encourage romance. Gradually, people began to associate lace with romance and started using paper lace to decorate chocolate boxes and Valentine cards. Even in present times laces are used in Valentine's Day Decoration and Cards.
Jewelry is becoming increasingly popular as a token of love on Valentine’s Day. The ring has always been a symbol of eternity. Jewelry that incorporates Valentine’s Day symbols such as love knots, hearts, birds, etc. are popular.
Visit my studio for Valentine's Day gift ideas!

1 comment:

  1. I loved this article. I'm in the process of making some valentines jewelry, and this came at the right time. :)