Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines, The Day Hallmark Hath Made


In Ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Feast of Lupercalia started the next day.

During these times boys and girls were segregated. However, the young people had a custom that began on the eve of the Festival of Lupercalia. The girl’s names were written on pieces of paper and inserted into jars. Each boy then drew a girl’s name from the jar and they were partners throughout the Festival. After being paired, the children would often continue to see each other throughout the year and on occasion even fell in love and got married.

Emperor Claudius II of Rome, also known as Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time recruiting men as soldiers. He believed that the men did not want to leave their sweethearts and cancelled all engagements and marriages throughout Rome. St. Valentine, a priest of Rome at the time, secretly married couples. He was eventually caught, arrested and condemned. He was beaten to death and beheaded on February 14th, around the year 270.

Lupercalia was a feast to a heathen God. Pastors and priests of the early Christian church did away with the pagan custom by replacing the names of the girls with the names of saints. They chose St. Valentine’s Day as the day of celebration for the new feast.

Valentine Day greetings became popular during the middles ages. During that time period, lovers sang or spoke their sentiments. Paper and written Valentines became popular at the end of the 15th Century. The oldest Valentine that exists today was made during this era and is on display in the British Museum.

In early years, Valentine cards were handmade. Rebus Valentines had verses in which tiny pictures took the place of some of the words. Fraktur Valentines had ornamental lettering in the style of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Cutout Valentines were made by folding a piece of paper several times and cutting out a lacey pattern with small, pointed scissors. A Puzzle Purse Valentine was a folded puzzle, which was read and refolded. Among the numerous folds were written lines and verses that had to be read in a certain order to be understood. Using a stencil cut from oilpaper and painting through the stencil made Theoren Valentines. These Valentines originated in the Orient. Pinprick Valentines were made to look like lace by pricking tiny holes in paper with a needle or pin. 

During the 1800’s Valentines began to be manufactured in factories. In the beginning they were handpainted by the workers and came only in black and white similar to silhouettes. Fancy Valentines of the day were made of ribbon and lace. Paper lace was not introduced until the mid 1800’s. By the end of the 19th Century, Valentines were made by machine. Handmade cards became very rare.

What Hallmark Hath to do with it?

Norcross, today known as Hallmark, began to manufacture Valentine Day cards in the early 1900’s. Each year, Hallmark displays a collection of antique Valentines in its stores. Rare cards are also displayed in museums and libraries around the world during late January and throughout February. If you have a chance to take in one of these displays, be sure to do so. You will not regret your decision.

During the 19th and 20th Centuries, postcards with Valentine greetings were produced. They came in categories of humor, romantic and friendship.

Thanks to a concentrated marketing effort, Valentine's Day is celebrated in some Asian countries with SingaporeansChinese and South Koreans spending the most money on Valentine's gifts.
In South Korea, similar to Japan, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on the 14th of Feb or March go to a Chinese restaurant to eat black noodles (자장면 jajangmyeon) and "mourn" their single life. Koreans also celebratePepero Day on November 11, when young couples give each other Pepero cookies. The date '11/11' is intended to resemble the long shape of the cookie. The 14th of every month marks a love-related day in Korea, although most of them are obscure. From January to December: Candle Day, Valentine's Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day. Korean women give a much higher amount of chocolate than Japanese women.

In China, the common situation is the man gives chocolate, flowers or both to the woman that he loves. In Chinese, Valentine's Day is called (simplified Chinese情人节traditional Chinese情人節pinyinqíng rén jié). Traditional Chinese Valentine's day is called "qixi" in pinyin, and is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, commemorating a fabled day on which the cowherder and weaving maid are allowed to be together. Modern Valentines day is also celebrated on February 14 of the solar calendar each year.

In Republic of China (Taiwan) the situation is the reverse of Japan's. Men give gifts to women in Valentine's Day, and women return them in White Day.
In the Philippines, Valentine's Day is called "Araw ng mga Puso" or "Hearts Day". It is usually marked by a steep increase in the prices of flowers.


In JapanMorozoff Ltd. introduced the holiday for the first time in 1936, when it ran an advertisement aimed at foreigners. Later in 1953 it began promoting the giving of heart-shaped chocolates; other Japanese confectionery companies followed suit thereafter. In 1958 the Isetan department store ran a "Valentine sale". Further campaigns during the 1960s popularized the custom.

The custom that only women give chocolates to men appears to have originated from the typo of a chocolate-company executive during the initial campaigns. In particular, office ladiesgive chocolate to their co-workers. Unlike western countries, gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers, or dinner dates are uncommon, and most of the activity about the gifts is about giving the right amount of chocolate to each person. Japanese chocolate companies make half their annual sales during this time of the year.

Many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except when the 14th falls on a Sunday, a holiday. This is known as giri-choko (義理チョコ), from giri ("obligation") andchoko, ("chocolate"), with unpopular co-workers receiving only "ultra-obligatory" chō-giri choko cheap chocolate. This contrasts with honmei-choko (本命チョコ, Favorite chocolate); chocolate given to a loved one. Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko (友チョコ); from tomo meaning "friend".

In the 1980s the Japanese National Confectionery Industry Association launched a successful campaign to make March 14 a "reply day", where men are expected to return the favour to those who gave them chocolates on Valentine's Day, calling it White Day for the color of the chocolates being offered. A previous failed attempt to popularize this celebration had been done by a marshmallow manufacturer who wanted men to return marshmallows to women.

Men are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gifts received in Valentine's Day. Not returning the gift is perceived as the men placing himself in a position of superiority, even if excuses are given. Returning a present of equal value is considered as a way to say that you are cutting the relationship. Originally only chocolate was given, but now the gifts of jewelry, accessories, clothing and lingerie are usual. According to the official website of White Day, the color white was chosen because it's the color of purity, evoking "pure, sweet teen love", and because it's also the color of sugar. The initial name was "Ai ni Kotaeru White Day" (Answer Love on White Day).
In Japan, the romantic "date night" associated to Valentine's Day is celebrated in Christmas Eve.

In a 2006 survey of people between 10 and 49 years of age in Japan, Oricon Style found the 1986 Sayuri Kokushō singleValentine Kiss, to be the most popular Valentine's Day song, even though it sold only 317,000 copies. The singles it beat in the ranking were number one selling Love Love Love from Dreams Come True (2,488,630 copies), Valentine's Radiofrom Yumi Matsutoya (1,606,780 copies), Happy Happy Greeting from the Kinki Kids (608,790 copies). The final song in the top five was My Funny Valentine by Miles Davis.

Similar Asian traditions

In Chinese culture, there is an older observance related to lovers, called "The Night of Sevens" (Chinese七夕pinyinQi Xi). According to the legend, the Cowherd star and the Weaver Maid star are normally separated by the milky way (silvery river) but are allowed to meet by crossing it on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar.

In Japan, a slightly different version of 七夕 called Tanabata has been celebrated for centuries, on July 7 (Gregorian calendar). It has been considered by Westerners as similar to St. Valentine's Day, but it's not related to it, and its origins are completely different.

love, now and always, 

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