From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Using the language of the law courts for the rituals of courtly love, a “High Court of Love” was established in Paris on Valentine’s Day in 1400. The court dealt with love contracts, betrayals, and violence against women. Judges were selected by women on the basis of a poetry reading.
The earliest surviving valentine is a fifteenth-century rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his “valentined” wife, which commences:
Je suis desja d’amour tanne
Ma tres doulce Valentinee… (Charles d’Orleans, Rondeau VI, lines 1-2)
At the time, the duke was being held in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415.
In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828-1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howard took her inspiration from an English valentine she had received, so clearly the practice of sending Valentine’s cards had existed in England before it became popular in North America. The English practice of sending Valentine’s cards appears in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mr. Harrison’s Confessions (published 1851). Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual “Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary.”
The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
In Saudi Arabia in 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, as the day is considered an un-Islamic holiday. This ban created a black market of roses and wrapping paper, according to a BBC News article.