How did Valentine's Day become a celebration of romantic love anyway? Well, as you probably know, unless you've been living under a rock, Valentine's Day, also known as The Feast Of Saint Valentine or Saint Valentine's Day, is celebrated on February 14th.
It started out as a Christian feast day in honour of one, or maybe two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine. This may have been an attempt to take over the Roman festival of Lupercalia which celebrated the coming of spring with fertility rites and a lottery in which women were paired with men. Thanks to the gradual growth and resilience folk traditions, and the very human desire to express our love, Valentine's Day is now a significant celebration of love and romance in many parts of the world.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
In some folklore, birds proposed to each other or got married on St Valentine's Day, which is a lovely idea! It ties in with the concept of Valentine's Day being a celebration of the coming of Spring. This was picked up by Chaucer in 1382, in 'The Parliament of Fowls', the first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love, which depicts birds choosing their mates: "For this was on Seynt Valentynes day, Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make" (In modern English: "For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes to choose his mate")
The earliest surviving Valentine is a 15th-century poem written by Charles, Duke of Orléans to his wife, which commences: "Je suis desja d'amour tanné/ Ma tres doulce Valentinée..."This translates as "I am already sick of love/ My very gentle Valentine…" At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415 and the piece describes how much he misses his beloved wife.
Valentine's Day is referred to by Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet (1600–1601):"To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day/ All in the morning betime/ And I a maid at your window/ To be your Valentine."
"The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you."
ROSES ARE RED - The Birth of Valentines Cards
The first sign of the classic "Roses are red/ violets are blue" dates back to Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queen (1590): "She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew/ And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew." The now rather clichéd Valentine's Day poem can be found for the first time as a full piece in Gammer Gurton's Garland (1784), a collection of English nursery rhymes published in London by Joseph Johnson (above.)
In 18th-century England, Valentine's Day grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "Valentines"). In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer, which contained sentimental verse ideas for the young lover who couldn't think of his own.
Printers had already begun producing a small amount of cards with verses and sketches. Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories, made with real lace and ribbons. Paper lace was introduced in the mid-19th century. In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in the United Kingdom, despite postage being expensive.
A reduction in postal rates following postal reforms and the 1840 invention of the postage stamp saw the number of Valentines posted skyrocket, with 400,000 sent just one year after its invention! So began the less personal but much easier practice of mailing Valentines. This also made it possible for Victorians to exchange cards anonymously, which explains the sudden appearance of saucy verse in a prudish time, as being anonymous made people brave (and cheeky!)
Since the 19th century, handwritten Valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards, but that doesn't mean you can get away with making no effort!
MODERN-DAY VALENTINES: A GIFT GUIDE
Fast forward to the modern day, and Valentine's Day can be a minefield. In mainstream retail suddenly everything is pink and glittery and covered in hearts. But here at USTUDIO things are a little different.
We believe that our collection is full of stuff that lovers will love, and we are more than happy to help you find a gift that really says 'I love you' rather than 'I just bought this because I panicked'. Read on for some ideas in our glorious Valentine gift guide.
First things first - for an amazing card to give to an amazing person, head over to our sister site, cardo.love where you will find a wonderful Valentine collection full of beautiful, contemporary and downright lovely greeting cards, like these…
BIG CAT LOVE
For the wild thang that has your heart! A long way from the style of early Valentines, this is a feisty and passionate greeting card by 1973 from Cardo.love's carefully curated selection.
Reminiscent of lazy Sunday mornings with the one you love. Contemporary illustration by Weronika Marianna for USTUDIO and available from cardo.love's brilliant 'Love' selection.
Light me Up
Say 'it' in a contemporary way. Again, no roses or cliches here with this illustration from US based publisher Red Cap Cards. Hearfelt sentiment and contemprary illustrative styling.
How About Some Gift Ideas?
Perhaps your Valentine would melt for some tasty Bare Bones bean-to-bar chocolate, or a lovely, delicate necklace, handmade in the UK by Alex Monroe? How about a Macon & Lesquoy embroidered bullion thread lapel badge?
We have some amazing perfume brands here at USTUDIO. Continuing the French theme, Maison Matine is a rebellious and cheeky French perfume label. They rebel against the opulence and sexism of the mainstream perfume industry and believe in simplicity and diversity, and we at USTUDIO agree with them! We love their captivating unisex fragrances and striking illustrated bottles. Lost in Translation is a woody, spicy fragrance with top notes of violet and juniper, middle notes of rosewood and black pepper, with heady base notes of patchouli, tobacco and leather. Suitably swoonsome for your Valentine!
Gift Ideas for Lovers
DOMINICAN 68% SALTED DARK CHOCOLATE BAR
Bare Bones Chocolate is a micro-batch, bean-to-bar craft chocolate company based in Glasgow. As chocolate enthusiasts, they wanted to create a brand that was built on incredible chocolate with impeccable detail through every process. The Maldon salt combined with dark chocolate in the Bare Bones 68% Dark Chocolate creates the perfect balance of sweet and savoury – making it incredibly complex and moreish, just like the one you love!
PEACOCK FEATHER NECKLACE
This gorgeous necklace, handmade in the UK, features a peacock feather pendant with engraved 'eye' motif and is from Alex Monroe's Classics jewellery collection. It is intricate and graceful; a gift that will be treasured for a lifetime. “Alex Monroe Jewellery is synonymous with a very British sense of style – slightly quirky but intended to be worn and loved for a lifetime. Inspired by the natural world, our pieces are delicate, detailed, and always handmade in England.” says Alex Monroe.
LAPEL PIN | CUPIDS ARROW
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to tickets to Paris (know the feeling), then maybe a beautiful lapel pin from French brand Macon & Lesquoy, featuring two hearts pierced by cupid's arrow, might just suit your amour? The Cannetilla jewellery-making technique used by Macon & Lesquoy requires a special metal thread, called bullion thread, to be very finely wound in a spiral, cut to the desired length, and then embroidered like beads.
Cheeky! Ark Colour Design Keyrings
If all else fails, bring out the willies and boobs! An irreverent valentine gift that's sure to raise a chuckle, our leather keyrings by Ark Colour Design are available in a variety of colours. Ark Colour Design are an art-led UK based producer making fun and quirky leather accessories. Their products are made by a small family run manufacturer in Scotland, who process the leather in their on-site tannery and then cut and foil emboss by hand, making each piece unique. (Snigger.)
Hopefully this has given you some great ideas for your Valentine! If you are looking for more inspiration then check out the Valentine Collection on our website. It's bursting with love!