History of Valentine’s Day

History of Valentine's Day

The origins of Valentine’s Day are murky. February, however, has long been associated with romance, a month thought to mark the beginning of the mating season for birds.

One legend involves Valentinus, a theologian and teacher. During the third century, Valentinus was imprisoned for his Christian beliefs and sentenced to death. While jailed, according to Roman legend, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer’s blind daughter. The night before he died, Valentinus wrote a farewell note to the girl, which he signed, “From Your Valentine.” His sentence was carried out the next day, Feb. 14, 269 A.D.

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Hundreds of years later in fifth century Rome, people honored Juno, the pagan goddess of love and marriage, on Feb. 14. During the celebration, men would draw women’s names and court them for marriage.

Around 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 as St. Valentine’s Day to honor the martyr Valentinus and to end the pagan celebration.

  • 1910s
    Valentines pre-date Hallmark and were among the first types of cards the company offered. A fire in 1915 that destroyed the company’s inventory of Valentine postcards led to the purchase of printing equipment so Hall Bros. (which would become Hallmark) could begin creating its own Valentines and other cards.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1910s Pansies Basket
  • 1920s
    The decade may have roared, but the invitation to join this lass on the loveseat was shy and sweetly coy.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1920s Sweet & Shy
  • 1920s
    The color on this and other Hallmark cards through the 1920s and 1930s was applied by hand, until lithography made color printing feasible.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1920s Heart with Hand-applied Color
  • 1930s
    Rub-a-dub-dub, what’s that in the tub? It’s a washboard, common in households before washing machines were widely available.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1930s Bear with Washboard
  • 1930s
    Even with patched pants, love prevailed in this Depression-days Valentine.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1930s Depression-days Valentine
  • 1940s
    “From me, your little sweetie pie, who really, truly loves her guy,” is the message inside this Valentine from a wife to her husband.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1940s Sweetie Pie
  • 1950s
    “Don’t be silly,” reads the rest of this Hallmark card intended for a loved one serving in the Korean war.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1950s Swell Guy in the Service
  • 1950s
    “And ZOWIE, they still do!” reads the message inside of this swell Hallmark Valentine.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1950s Swell Guy I Married
  • 1960s
    Smoking was cool until the Surgeon General’s office issued its warning in the mid-1960s. No cautionary message about hairstyles of the day, however.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1960s Smoking Lady
  • 1970s
    “…is more nice people like you!” reads the inside of this happy hippie Hallmark Valentine card.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1970s Happy Hippie
  • 1970s
    The photo treatment and hairstyles scream 1970s, but the message inside whispers: “With you, I feel beautiful.”
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1970s Photo Treatment
  • 1980s
    Hubby was forthright and appreciative in his Valentine expression; the inside of this card reads: “…and in the hall and in the closet and in the den…”
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1980s Wife in Kitchen
  • 1980s
    Some of the decade’s leading heart-throbs were on the wish list…
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1980s Heart-throbs
  • 1980s
    …but it was the frog who came bearing gifts!
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1980s Frog
  • 1990s
    Inside, this card from Hallmark’s Mahogany line continues: “You move through me like a summer breeze, awakening my senses, stirring my emotions, making me feel alive… Your love is like air, and in you, I breathe.” Steamy!
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1990s Mahogany
  • 1990s
    Whether it was “like” or “love”… a new romance or a long-term relationship, “Look, it’s Cupig!” could work its whimsy on a range of 1990s relationships and situations.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 1990s Cupig
  • 2000s
    It’s a fairy-tale image in this Hallmark card, with words grounded in the reality of new millennium relationships.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 2000s Fairy-tale
  • 2000s
    He… she… a parked car… it’s the 21st century version of an age-old theme, set to a popular country tune courtesy of this Valentine Card With Sound.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 2000s Card With Sound
  • 2000s
    “I’m nuts about you!” reads the inside of this consumer-created Valentine, a finalist in a Hallmark Card Contest, one of many fun options for our greeting card future.
    Valentine's Day cards through the years: 2000s Nuts About You