Love Lore Title

valentine heartThe heart is the most common symbol of romantic love. Ancient cultures believed the human soul lived in the heart. Others thought it to be the source of emotions and intelligence. Some believed the heart embodied a man's truth, strength and nobility. The heart may be associated with love because the ancient Greeks believed it was the target of Eros, known as cupid to the Romans. Anyone shot in the heart by one of Cupid's arrows would fall hopelessly in love. Because the heart is so closely linked to love, it's red color is thought to be the most romantic.

cupidsAphrodite's messenger took the form of a mischievous little sprite named Eros. (In Roman mythology, Eros is referred to as Cupid.) His greatest pleasure was to make gods and humans alike to fall in love, which he accomplished by piercing their hearts with one of his gold-tipped arrows. Literature is filled with lovers struck by Cupid's darts--and those trying to escape them! It's said that Cupid caused the god Apollo to fall for the nymph Daphne, whose father turned her into a bay tree in order to protect her from the god's advances.

Valentines DayValentine's Day is thought to have evolved from a spring holiday celebrated in the days of ancient Rome. The feast of Lupercalia was actually celebrated on February 15 and honored the god Lupercus, who protected the people and their herds from wolves. On this day, dances were held for all the single young men and women. A man would draw his partner's name from a piece of papyrus placed in a bowl. The man not only danced with his partner but was also obligated to protect her throughout the new year, which began in March. In many cases, the partners became sweethearts and were soon married. When the tradition of these dances was later revived in the Middle Ages, a man would wear his sweetheart's name on his sleeve. Even today we refer to someone quick to show feeling as "wearing his heart on his sleeve."

Ancient loversValentine's Day most likely received its name and date from Valentinus, a Roman priest who was beheaded on February 14 in the third century A.D. At that time, Emperor Claudius II banned all weddings and engagements, believing that newly married men made poor Roman soldiers. Valentinus defied the emperor by performing secret marriages and has since been regarded as the patron saint of all lovers. Many of the rites and practices of the earlier Lupercalia were probably attached to St. Valentine's Day when the church desired to shift the focus from pagan to Christian holidays.

Another Roman legend of Saint Valentine emphasizes his love for children. The priest often told them stories and made them small bouquets from the flowers in his garden.small bouquetWhen he was imprisoned for refusing to worship pagan gods, the children made bouquets of their own, adorning them with love notes and tossing them through the prison bars. Then Valentine prayed for a miracle, hoping that God would restore the sight of the jailer's blind daughter. The Emperor Claudius became enraged when the miracle occurred and both the jailer and his daughter converted to Christianity. Condemned to die, the priest sent the young girl a farewell message signed simply, "from your Valentine."

Over time, love notes sent to sweethearts on February 14 became known as valentines--as did those who sent them.Valentine candyLike the fresh bouquets fashioned by the saint, anything symbolizing sweetness and beauty became an appropriate gift--making candy and flowers traditional favorites to this day.

Cupid valentinePaper valentines differed from those of today in that most were printed without messages, leaving the eighteenth-century lover to pen his own sentiment. Since the occasion would render all but the practicing poet speechless, professionals soon published "Valentine Writers" to help untangle the tongues of the lovelorn. These inexpensive books offered lovers flowery verses, disarming prose, or simple questions to which the intended could reply. Messages were written on behalf of men or women, the young or the old, even those in various professions.


A wealthy Elizabethan lover could afford to hire a writer to craft a personal verse, or pay a songster to compose special lyrics to popular tunes of the day. A songster would even deliver the lover's message, filling the streets and alleys with romantic serenades on Valentine's Day.

Paper valentines became popular in the eighteenth century. Before commercial printers created the colorful heirlooms we now have from Victorian times, people created their own valentines from paper scraps. American colonist spent cold winter nights making paper cutouts featuring knot patterns and interlocking hearts. Special verses were written inside the interlocking paths of these "love knots." Since the verse had no precise beginning or end, the recipient could begin reading the message starting at any line.

Love Knot

heart in hand

The early nineteenth-century woman might trace the outline of her hand, than add a paper heart in the center as a symbol of her affection for the recipient. This may suggest the origin of the heart-in-hand motif that is still a popular folk art motif.

pocket watch

Many girls of that same period made watch papers for their sweethearts. Cut from pretty paper, silk or satin, these small circles replaced the ordinary papers that kept the dust out of pocket watches. The circles were painted or embroidered with hearts, the lovers' initials, or a special motto and became popular Valentine's Day gifts.

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