cc: Everyone who says it’s just a Hallmark holiday.
Don’t come at us with your commercial-holiday logic. We’ve made it to the root of Cupid’s big day and, it’s more than heart-shaped candy and prix-fixe menus. Here, a few of our favorite Valentine’s Day traditions (some centuries old) worth bringing back.
Celebrating the Coming of Spring
Valentine’s Day was tied to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia that (in addition to notably stranger themes) looked ahead to the promise of spring—a season of flowers, love, and new life. Saying goodbye to the oftentimes dreariness of winter in favor of warmer days, chirping birds, and a season of enjoying nature is certainly cause for celebration.
Sending Love Letters
Centuries ago, Roman men would write romantic letters to women that mentioned St. Valentine of Rome, the patron of love, to portray just how smitten they were. We’ll leave the text messages and heart emojis to our Northern neighbors—down here we’ve got plenty of inspiration for penning love letters “hotter than a pepper sprout” (looking at you, Johnny).
Giving Violet Bouquets
The first flowers given on Valentine’s Day weren’t the red roses that are popular today. Instead, violets were the flower of choice. It’s believed that violets grew outside St. Valentine’s jail cell. He would crush violet blossoms to make ink, which would be used to covertly write letters that were said to have been delivered by doves. Violets are known as a symbol of faithfulness and requited love.
Hand-Making Valentines Cards
Historically, handmade valentines weren’t child’s play. Intricate cards complete with lace and ribbon became popular during the Middle Ages before making way for mass-produced cards during the industrial revolution. It’s worth noting that Valentine’s Day didn’t become a “Hallmark Holiday” until 1913 when the retailer began getting in on the valentines business.
Keeping Your Valentine a Mystery
If you’ve ever wondered where the “secret admirer” originated, Victorians may be responsible. Legend has it, they believed it was bad luck to sign cards with their name, so the tradition of the anonymous valentine began.
Proposing with Gloves
While not a tradition exclusive to Valentine’s Day, engagements certainly abound on this day of love. Many years ago, as an alternative to a ring, a suitor would give his lady a pair of gloves when offering his hand in marriage. If she wore them the next time he saw her he would take it as an acceptance of the proposal. Don’t get any ideas gentlemen, this is one tradition that we’re not too keen to see return. We’ll take the hardware.