I have one of the most beautiful aromatic bouquets of flowers in my office—an early Valentine’s Day present. As we cozy up to this holiday, I became intrigued by its origins. They start in the Roman period and became associated with martyred Christians. The “love connection” didn’t get going until many centuries later.
Young men in the late 1700s could consult The Young Man’s Valentine Writer to find just the right tone and sentiment to pen to handmade cards. (The cost of postage also came down at this time, making sending the cards more affordable.) The next century saw the increase in gifts of chocolate and jewelry on February 14.
Greeting card companies in the late 1800s and early 1900s got in the mix, creating the craze of mass-produced oversize, frilly cards. (Even my father, one of the least romantic people I can think of, broke down and bought my mother one of them—which I found after she passed away, lovingly preserved in a drawer.) These days, cards for Valentine’s Day is a multi-million dollar business.
All this got me thinking about the intricate steps of old-time courtship. In fact, a British friend of mine always referred to dating as “finding a partner,” which in turn made me think of dancing, rather than dating. Anyway, I found this intriguing radio discussion among three history professors of just this topic. You can listen to it on BackStory with the American History Guys.