Be My Valentine


“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

So says Charles M. Schulz. Valentine’s Day is interpreted by many to include cards, chocolates, candlelight and roses. Some even break the bank buying expensive jewelry. Valentine’s day was named for a Christian martyr dating back to the 5th century, but according to Arnie Seipel in an essay for NPR, its origins are dark and bloody even, beginning with the wild and crazy Romans and their feast of Lupercalia.
During the Middle Ages tokens of love were first expressed by handmade paper cards. In the 14th century Chaucer helped romanticize the holiday with his love quotes like “love is blind” from The Canterbury Tales and his Parlement of Foules, featuring an assembly of birds gathered together to choose their mates. From the Renaissance to the Victorian Age and beyond, poets wrote sonnets extolling romantic love: Shakespeare, known especially during this season for Sonnet # 116, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous lines “How do I Love Thee? Let me count the ways” in Sonnet # 43.

Today, Valentine’s Day is big business. In 2011, sales reached $ 18.6 billion. This year the figure will probably exceed 20 billion. Seipel quotes Helen Fisher, a sociologist at Rutgers University, who says that if commercialization has spoiled the day, we can blame only ourselves for buying into it. But the celebration of Valentine’s Day goes on nonetheless. Even with some sayings on candy hearts we never imagined:

A few candy heart sayings we never saw: Courtesy Google Images
A few candy heart sayings updated by social media: Courtesy Google Images

Years ago, candies like these were hand-picked for that special one, but many valentine cards were home-made. I remember making valentines for friends at school or punching cut-outs for classmates and dropping them in to the big, square box decorated red and white for Valentine’s Day at Rheems Elementary School. Stories in our readers illustrated children making, not buying, Valentine cards for friends:

"The Surprise Valentines," Gray and Arbuthnot, Scott Foresman & Company, 1941.
“The Surprise Valentines,” Gray and Arbuthnot, Scott Foresman & Company, 1941.

Do you remember making or receiving hand-made valentines? Are you holding on to an old Valentine card for sentimental reasons?

Vintage Cut-out Card, Cliff Collection
Vintage cut-out card, Cliff Collection 1966

Your thoughts start the conversation—or keep it going. Thank you!


12 thoughts on “Be My Valentine

  1. I had to laugh a few years ago when one of my students walked in on this very holiday and said, “They ought to rename this day National Singles Awareness Day.”


    1. And your student was all of 15 years old, I bet. That’s another laugh! Actually, the essay I quoted from went on to mention the celebration of a Single Awareness Day. S/He must have heard about that one. Thanks for reading and commenting so early on a school day, Traci. I believe you have a long week-end coming up, another good reason to celebrate.


  2. I remember when we hand made them and you only gave them to the ones you favored. You weren’t required to give them to the whole class. Some went home empty handed and some went home with a bagful.


      1. No, I was a trouble making kid. The one who couldn’t stay in her seat and chattered incessantly. Not many valentines for me, except from the kids whose Mom MADE them give them to all. Being a tomboy, the guys sort of looked at me as one of them, and the girls thought less of me because girls did not like boys back in those days.


  3. Marian — I enjoyed looking at the vintage photos you included in this post, it brought back lots of fond memories…

    …In elementary school we spent in-class-time the week approaching Valentine’s Day making “mailboxes” for the back of our chairs, and creating Valentine’s cards for our classmates. Our mothers were busy at home baking cookies, cupcakes, and other decadent goodies. On the actual day, each student was given the opportunity to play “mail carrier” and personally deliver Valentines to each “mailbox.” Once all of the deliveries were made, we got to indulge in our mother’s delicious handmade goodies!


    1. That’s a lovely tradition. I wonder if it was repeated in other classrooms then. The moral of the story in the page from the reader I included in today’s post was that edible Valentines are the best valentines of all. (The little girl’s cards got soaked because her window was open on a snowy night–sounds odd, even improbably, now that I’m writing this!)
      Thanks for the story. Sweet remembrance!


  4. I think Cupid’s arrows deflected my first comment into cyberspace.

    I remember commenting on your ability to be ready for holidays and special occasions with just the right individual twist. This kind of blogging keeps building the community of those of us who look forward to every post. Brava.

    Your post reminded me that I made a little two-minute video that relates to both Valentines Day and to Plain and Fancy. You can see lots of vintage valentines in the video.

    I also get to talk about showing and telling in storytelling. Once a teacher, always a teacher. 🙂


    1. I just viewed it, Shirley, and left a comment directing readers back to this blog. I couldn’t agree more: “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” Honestly, I think I would crack up if I had no outlet like this for teaching AND learning. I hope other readers will see your comment and view the timely video. We both value memorabilia it is plain to see!


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