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The History of Valentine Cards

Saint Valentine

Valentine was a Roman priest who was put to death in the year 273 for refusing to give up his Christian faith.

The date of his death (February 14th) coincided with the Roman Spring festival, the Lupercalia, held in honour of the gods Pan and Juno. This was one of the most important festivals in the Roman calendar, and was one of many brought to Britain by the Romans. At the Lupercalia, Roman boys and girls drew names out of a box to find out who would be their partner for the festival.

The early Christian church was unable to prevent people from celebrating this pagan festival, so linked it with the name of St. Valentine, who became the Patron Saint of Lovers.

Valentine Cards

Valentine card, paper lace, 1870sThe custom of sending Valentines is hundreds of years old. The earliest known Valentine was sent in Norfolk in 1477, in the form of a letter from Margery Brews to John Paston, whom she described as ‘my right well beloved Valentine’.

Printed Valentines began to appear in the late eighteenth century. With the improvement in postal services and printing methods in the nineteenth century, Valentine’s Day was celebrated as never before.

By the 1830s, Valentines were sent in such great numbers that postmen were given a special allowance for refreshments to help them through the extraordinary exertions of the two or three days leading up to February 14th.