Sunday, February 13, 2011

St. Valentine's Day

New York City, 
1882

Valentine’s Day was wildly popular in the late nineteenth century, reflecting the values of a society that prized ceremony and ritual in its social forms. Traditionally celebrated on Saint Valentine’s Day, even though none of the martyred saints named Valentine seem to have had any connection to romantic love, the holiday somehow acquired its amorous meaning during the Middle Ages.1 By the early nineteenth century, couples began to consider romantic love a prerequisite for marriage, setting the stage for a broad-based revival of the tradition. Revitalized again in the late 1840s with the introduction of mass-produced greeting cards, the amative feast day increasingly came into vogue after the Civil War. By the early 1880s, it was ripe for additional commercial opportunities, going beyond the usual candy, flowers, and cards.