When I used to be in grade college, Valentine’s Day was one of my favourite holidays. There had been playing cards. There was the likelihood that your crush truly favored you again. And, there was the chocolate — a lot chocolate.

Little did I do know that the roots of this vacation bore little-to-no resemblance to my childhood expertise of it. We had been by no means taught that Valentine’s Day truly originated with an arguably ugly ancient festival, the place there was no chocolate or alternate of cute, red-and-pink playing cards.

But find it irresistible or hate it, these are the kinds of issues we affiliate with the vacation immediately. After all, there is a cause roughly 114 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year — it is what’s develop into anticipated of us.

So how on earth did we get from an historic Roman pageant to a vacation that compels many of us to spend no less than $147 on celebrating it? That story, it seems, is hundreds of years outdated — however we’ll attempt to condense it.

How Valentine’s Day Began and Evolved

Ancient Rome

Picture of Circle of Adam Elsheimer The Lupercalian Festival in RomeImage Source

The roots of Valentine’s Day are cited by some sources to lie within the historic Roman pageant Lupercalia, largely as a result of it came about yearly on February 15 — the day after what’s immediately the noticed date of Valentine’s Day — and concerned some very primitive varieties of courtship and matchmaking. But it was additionally historic Rome that noticed the well-known execution of a St. Valentine on February 14, round 278 A.D. According to legend, he wrote a letter on the night time earlier than his execution to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended, and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”

Over two centuries later, Pope Gelasius ordered that Lupercalia get replaced with the February 14 commentary of St. Valentine’s Day. That set the tone, some imagine, for the day’s forthcoming custom of exchanging “love messages,” maybe in remembrance of St. Valentine’s farewell letter.

The Romans are additionally credited with developing the concept of Cupid — a god of love typically depicted with arrows that, because the legend goes, inflict love upon those that are hit by them. The Roman model of Cupid was tailored from Eros, a god of ardour and fertility in Greek mythology. It appears that nobody is kind of positive when cupid turned related to Valentine’s Day, however the truth that each have origins in historic Roman tradition means that there might have been some very early overlap between the 2.

Shakespeare (and Chaucer) in Love

Picture of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, a principal inspiration for Valentine's Day
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When NPR’s Arnie Seipel got down to discover the historical past of Valentine’s Day, he discovered that it first became romanticized by classic authors like William Shakespeare within the late 16th century, and Geoffrey Chaucer within the 1300s.


Dartmouth English professor Peter Travis cites Chaucer’s epic poem The Parliament of Fowls, which was one of the primary literary references to St. Valentine’s Day, or “Seynt Valentynes day,” as Chaucer spelled it. One such point out is made, Travis explains, alongside the road, “Now welcom somer, with thy sonne sonne, That hast this wintres weders over-shake.” In different phrases, after we have a good time love within the coldest depths of winter — in February, as an example — it is so heartwarming that it makes summer time really feel much less distant.


Some literary historians credit score Shakespeare for the permeation of love into standard tradition along with his composition of “Sonnet 18” — mentioned to be written between 1593-1601 — a.ok.a., “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” It’s unclear when or how this explicit work turned related to Valentine’s Day, however like Chaucer, Shakespeare compares like to the seasons.

“While summer days may fade and fall into” colder months, writes Shakespeare analyst Lee Jamieson, “his love is eternal.”

Of course, Saint Valentine’s day is alluded to outright in Hamlet — written between 1599-1601 — when the character Ophelia recites a song a few younger woman’s expertise with the vacation, which incorporates lyrics like, “Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,” and, “To be your Valentine.”

The 17th Century and Beyond

The first card ever made for Valentine's Day (by Esther Howland)
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By the 1700s, it is mentioned that Valentine’s Day made its manner from Europe to the United States, which aligns with the institution of the North American colonies between 1607-1770. It turned conventional, in accordance with HISTORY.com, “for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes.” That was extra widespread in England, nevertheless, the place the Industrial Revolution started earlier and finally included the manufacturing of “fancy valentines [that] were extremely expensive to import.

It’s mentioned that one American girl, Esther Howland, was so intrigued when she obtained her first English valentine greeting in 1847, that she turned infatuated with the concept of manufacturing them within the U.S. She was an early entrepreneur, and instinctively believed that there might be an American market for these formal, English-style greetings. After procuring supplies like high-quality paper and lace from her father, a stationer, she created what many credit score because the earliest American Valentine’s Day greeting playing cards.

Today, Howland continues to be honored with the nickname “Mother of the American Valentine,” with many citing her work as the beginning of a multi-million-dollar industry. But it did not occur in a single day — let’s check out how her work paved the way in which.

A Brief Timeline of Valentine’s Day Marketing


Charles II of Sweden begins speaking with flowers, by assigning a distinct message to every sort. This custom allegedly assigned love and romance to the red rose, setting the stage for this flower to be exchanged in the course of the later, commercialized period of Valentine’s Day. However, it stays unclear if a selected model is accountable for first advertising and marketing flowers as half of Valentine’s Day gift-giving.


The first ever Cadbury heart shaped chocolate box
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In England, the place Valentine’s Day had by now already been celebrated with the alternate of presents and playing cards for a few years, the Cadbury chocolate firm sells the first heart-shaped box of chocolates.


In Massachusetts, Howland produces a dozen pattern Valentine’s Day playing cards and sends them off along with her brother to distribute throughout a gross sales journey for his or her father’s firm — S.A. Howland & Sons — hoping to earn $200. Instead, he returns with 25X that amount, indicating a a lot higher-than-expected demand.

Here’s an instance of a card Howland created round this time.

Howland Valentine's Day Card

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The first print commercial for Howland’s playing cards seems within the Worcester Spy.


Necco Candy SweetHearts, the first ever in Valentine's Day history
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Conversation candies are developed, when Daniel Chase — brother of New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) founder Oliver Chase — makes use of vegetable dye to print words onto confections.


Howland incorporates her booming card enterprise because the New England Valentine Company, working out of her house by way of an meeting line that was largely comprised of her buddies.


public-domain-images-ester-Cover of a Valentine's Day book published by Howland's company
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The New England Valentine Company strikes operations from Howland’s house to a Main Street manufacturing facility in Worcester, Massachusetts. That identical yr, the corporate publishes the Valentine Verse Book, which contained 131 “verses” that individuals might reduce out and paste inside of playing cards that got here with no greeting — or these with a greeting that the customer did not like.

1880 – 1881

Howland sells the New England Valentine Company to the George C. Whitney Company.


Workers creating and mass-producing Valentine's Day cards
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Whitney has acquired at the least 10 opponents, together with Berlin and Jones, which had develop into New York City’s “largest manufacturer of Valentines.” Ten years later, the corporate strikes to large-scale headquarters on Worcester’s Union Street.


The Hershey Chocolate Company is based, bringing what was beforehand “a European luxury product” to the U.S.


Conversation candies develop into heart-shaped.


American Greetings is based, finally turning into one of Whitney’s chief opponents.

Valentine's Day card advertisement by American Greeting
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The Hershey Chocolate Company introduces its Hershey Kisses sweet product. Interestingly sufficient, the product was allegedly named Kisses as a result of each time a bit of chocolate was dropped on the conveyer belt on the Hershey manufacturing facility, it appeared like a kiss.

Giant Hershey Kisses sitting on a "Kissmobile"

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That January, an enormous fireplace destroys a lot of Whitney’s headquarters. However, most of the Valentine’s Day merchandise had already been shipped for the season, having little impression on that individual vacation.

Valentine's Day advertisement with red roses and a woman in a gold dress
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That identical yr, Hallmark is founded. Meanwhile, 1910 additionally noticed the creation of Florists’ Telegraph Delivery — immediately generally known as FTD — which pioneered the distant ordering and supply of flowers, offering a strategy to ship them to far-away family members.


Hallmark produces its first Valentine’s Day card.


First ever Valentine's Day advertisement for diamonds
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The De Beers diamond firm launches its “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign, sending the message that gifting high-end jewellery can be utilized as an expression of love.


In the ’80s firms like Hallmark started launching extra Valentine’s Day associated commercials. In 1985, one industrial, which dubs Hallmark as “The Valentine’s Store” reveals off all of the playing cards and heart-shaped merchandise you should buy for the one you love of their areas.


As if Kisses weren’t romantic sufficient based mostly on their identify, Hershey’s enforced them as a Valentine’s Day staple with one slight design tweak. The firm started packaging Kisses candies in pink and red foil particularly for Valentine’s Day.


As entrepreneurs continued to embrace new media, we noticed an inflow of high-quality and insanely high-budgeted commercials mark the vacation from the ’80s till now. One of essentially the most iconic and superbly shot commercials was a mini-romance drama, known as “Le Film,” selling Chanel No. 5 fragrance.

In the advert, a person falls in love and runs away with a starlet, performed by Nicole Kidman. In the top, she returns again to her life of fame. As she walks down the purple carpet, he notes all of the issues he’ll keep in mind about her, together with the scent of her Chanel No. 5 fragrance.


Valentine’s Day begins to go digital. On February 14, 2005, YouTube — which originated as an internet relationship website — makes its debut. Co-founder Steve Chen nonetheless credit its invention because the brainchild of “three guys on Valentine’s Day that had nothing to do.”

Image of YouTube when it was a dating website
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Ride sharing firm Uber rolls out “Romance On Demand,” permitting customers to ship flowers on Valentine’s Day by way of the app. This initiative would proceed to progress, with on-demand skywriting turning into obtainable the next yr.

Uber's Valentine's Day "Romance on Demand" campaign
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NetBase, a social media analytics platform, releases a Valentine’s Day Sentiment Analysis, measuring how folks interact with and talk about the vacation on social media. In whole, it measured 9 million mentions of Valentine’s Day, with the overwhelming majority of them mentioning a selected model — Netflix. The high hashtag was #happyvalentinesday.


In the sooner years of the Google Doodle, Google used Valentine’s Day to unfold consciousness of a uncommon species. In 2017, a sequence of Google Doodles proven within the days main as much as Valentine’s Day highlighted the tales of pangolins, the one mammal species with scales, as they offer one another Valentine’s Day presents or serenade their mates. Here’s one instance:

Google's Valentine's Day Doodle, released Feb. 12, 2017, features the Indian pangolin, a species native to India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan

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While, at this level, Google did not must market themselves with Doodles, this reveals an early instance of a model that used its platform to creatively market one other trigger on the vacation.

2018 to Present Day

In latest years, Valentine’s Day advertising and marketing campaigns have gone fully digital, with a very robust presence on social media. With these new alternatives, smaller firms that do not have Hallmark’s funds can simply unfold consciousness of their very own manufacturers in the course of the vacation. Here’s one instance of an Instagram put up which highlighted a high quality Italian restaurant forward of Valentine’s Day:

While these actual canine’s mimicking Lady and the Tramp grabbed consideration, particularly from the animal lovers on Instagram, this put up’s caption encourages audiences to work together with the model.

What Marketers Can Learn from Valentine’s Day Marketing

Like so many different holidays, Valentine’s Day has skilled a transition into popular culture that has formed the way in which it is perceived, mentioned, and celebrated. Sure, it is typically accused of being nothing greater than a money-making advertising and marketing vacation. But subsequent time you hear somebody label Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark holiday,” you will have a wealth of historic data to reply with.

From our hearts to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day. We’ll be maintaining a tally of its continued evolution. 

Editor’s Note: This weblog put up was initially revealed in February 2017 and has been up to date for comprehensiveness and freshness.

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