February 14 is Valentine's Day.
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(NC)-Every year on Feb. 14th, people in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Australia, Great Britain and France exchange cards and gifts in honor of St. Valentine. This holiday, and the traditions associated with it, date back over 1,700 years to the third century A.D.
According to Roman legend, Valentinus was imprisoned for his religious beliefs and sentenced to death. Legend has it that Valentinus actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting-a letter signed 'From your Valentine' that he wrote to a young girl with whom he'd fallen in love.
"The valentine has become the universal symbol for love over the centuries," says Denise Darragh of Hallmark Canada. "But Valentine's Day celebrations and traditions, including cards, are constantly evolving to reflect everyday attitudes towards romance."
Early valentine greetings were spoken or sung by lovers during the Middle Ages. Written valentines didn't become popular until after 1400. The oldest known Valentine's Day card is currently on display at the British Museum in London, England. It was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife during his imprisonment in the Tower of London in 1415.
Paper valentines made with coloured paper, watercolours and coloured inks eventually became popular in England. There were many different handmade valentines including Acrostic valentines (verses in which the first lines spelled out your lover's name), Pinprick valentines (made by pricking small holes in paper to create the look of lace) and Rebus valentines (where pictures took the place of words such as a tiny heart to replace the word love).
Commercial valentines first appeared around 1800 and have featured a variety of themes reflective of each era. Norman Rockwell inspired Valentine's Day cards in the roaring twenties while the influence of Mickey Mouse and World War II can be seen in cards from the thirties and forties. In the 1960's, a new greeting card language emerged featuring irreverent humor that appealed to "Laugh In" and Beatles fans.
Today, Valentine's Day cards are available for everyone. While over half of all valentines are romantic, there are cards for friends, teachers, children and other family members. More than 1,200 different Valentine's Day cards are available at Hallmark Gold Crown stores across Canada. To find the nearest store, call 1-800-268-3230