Sunday, February 15, 2009

History of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day aka Saint Valentine's Day is a holiday which is celebrated on February 14 by many people throughout the world. It is on this day that lovers, friends and family express their love for each other by sending Valentine's cards, flowers, sweet confections such as chocolates in heart shaped boxes or in my favorite box: The Golden Square Box with Brown lettering aka Godiva Chocolate.

This heartfelt holiday was actually named after 2 Christian Martyrs named Valentine. and it's romantic origins developed as early as the Middle Ages among the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer.

But where did the idea of creating valentine cards and notes come from, it wasn't until the early 1840's with writers such as Leight Eric Schmidt, began to write their observations of this holiday which was quote starting to become a National Holiday! In the U.S., during 1847, the first mass-produced Valentines were created and sold out of Worcestor, Massachusettes, and produced by Esther Howland (1828-1904)whose father owned a stationary store, thus these Valentines were made primarily of embossed paper lace.

Esther's had become inspired to make these valentines from an English Valentine she had received, which clearly shows that the practice of sending Valentine's cards had existed in England long before it became popular in U.S. Further study suggest that the English Tradition of sending Valentine cards appears in Elizabeth Gaskell's book: Mr. Harrison's Confessions which was published 1851.

In more modern times, we have further elaborated on the symbols of Valentine's day declaring the heart shape, doves, the winged Cupid and candy as the icons of this day. According to the Greeting Card Associate, it is estimated that roughly one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide. This makes Valentine's Day the second largest card giving holiday, with Christmas being ranked at Number One.

The art of exchanging Valentine cards branched out into Roses, heart shaped satin boxes filled with scrumptious chocolates or special edition chocolates, and jewels, especially diamond jewelry or lockets, this day was a new way to promote Valentine's Day as a jewelry giving holiday, which expressed: "Diamonds are a girls best friend", thus a perfect companion to a box of another girls fave chocolate.

Even elementary schools encourage the spirit of Valentine's Day through the exchange of valentines, secret valentines and valentine projects and events. Even when I was a child, I always looked foward to Valentine's Day at school, because of all the events we had revolving around it, like the secret valentine box we each made for ourselves which was decorated with paints, paper hearts, ribbon, lace and favorite images or stickers, then they would get filled with our class mates handmade or bought valentines even in Girl Scouts we were awarded badges that we earned through our love for helping others, My Mom and Friend's mom were the leaders and used to come up with cute valentine projects that we could make for our parents on that day. My mom saved all mine, which I still have today, even my secret box.

Another historical memoir of Valentine's day are the elaborate handmade love tokens that Sailors made for their beloved, while they were away at sea. Many of these beauties were so detailed and exquisite, made from carved wood, barnegate, drift wood, satinwood or harewood, fabric and upholestary scraps, buttons, various collected shells, sewing thread, pictures or travel port collections, glued together with hand concocted glue or sewn with needle and thread. This was work that you couldn' believe today was made by men, men of the sea. However some were already pre-made and sold to sailors at ports such as The Barbados and Indonesia. These timeless works of art give off a majestic quality and feel, they tell a story of the places they have been to, the people who made them and the ones who received them. Today these Sailors Love Tokens, are hard to find and can fetch a high price.

In John Fondas Book Sailors' Valentines, he stated that the primary source for Sailors' Valentines were at The Old Curiosity Shop, located in Barbados, a popular place during the 1800s for sailors to purchase these souvenirs and other exotic goods. Today a great place to buy New and Vintage Sailors' Valentines, is on the Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

To buy vintage sea shells, for this project, type in: vintage valentine shells or sailors valentines at

The Following are great sites to see examples and to buy this timeless art form
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
The Nantucket Clipper
The Nautical Supply Shop
Martha Stewart, Seashell valentines
Lynda Susan Hennigan

Treasure Sailor's Valentines, Video on HGTV
Treasured Sailor's Valentine, Video
Great Place to find shells:
Sanibel, Florida
Vintage Valentines/Ephemera
Vintage Valentine Museum
Valentine's Day as mentioned by Ophelia in 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.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

Sailor's Valentine Project

-Unfinished Wood Plaque, in heart, oval, or square shaped (Craft Stores)
-Fabric and Velvet scraps
-Bag of tiny shells
-Bag of medium/large sized shells
-Broken china pieces
-Buttons: Pearly and rustic colors
-Vintage ephemera, Images, cards
-paper doilies
-Hot glue, glue sticks
-E-6000 glue or clear caulk or vinyl spackle
-Other: ribbons, charms, millinery flowers, broken jewelry

1. Lay scrap fabric or velvet onto the plaque, measure to fit, hot glue to front of plaque and to the back of plaque.
2. Arrange your preferred doilies, ephemera, and images onto the velvet layered plaque, until you are satisfied with the arrangement, hot glue in place.
3. Now start layering shells around the border of the plaque, starting with the large shells first, then medium, fill in with the tiny shells, using E-6000 glue to hold in place, let set for a few hours.
4. Next finish embellishing your sailor valentine with broken china pieces, charms, ribbon work, broken jewelry, etc.

Tips:-If you do not have E-6000 glue, glue the shells, china bits, broken jewelry in place with either clear caulk or vinyl spackle.

-When working with any strong glue, use in a well ventilated are.

-Use pre-cautions with hot glue, if burned, dip into ice water immediately.

-Instead of velvet or fabric scraps use piano paper or vintage ephemera for the base before layering with shells and bits.

-Try an old bisque doll head in the center, glue in place with clear caulk, let dry, and layer with bits and pieces.

I will upload examples soon!


Geralyn Gray said...

What a nice Valentine's Post.....I was trying to do some posts with a lot of linking before I went on vacation---just didn't have the time--you did a nice post full of fun info!!!!!!!

robin dudley-howes said...

I just saw your book on Joggles. It looks so fun.

faerie enchantment said...

Thanks Geralyn!
I thought this post would be perfect for Valentine's Day/Weekend! I have always loved those vintage handmade valentines with seashells and images.

Thank You Robin, the book is filled with magic, sending some your way, thanks for coming by to visit!

Magic and Joy to You Both!

frstyfrolk/Cyndi said...

Bailey-Matthews Seashell Museum in Sanibel Island, FL.

This is where I first saw them and anyone near that area should go see this awesome place. It has seashells from all over the world, and many sailor valentines.
Also, it shows how buttons are made from seashells. Very interesting!
smiles, cyndi