Valentine’s Day History
‘Sweethearts’ candies started out as lozenges
The iconic chalky heart-shaped candies that have been passed out lovingly every Valentine’s Day started out as lozenges. According to the Food Business News, pharmacist and inventor Oliver Chase created a machine that would quickly create the lozenges before switching to using the machine to create candy—later known as Necco Wafers.
Chase’s brother came up with the idea to print messages on the candy in 1866, and the candies got their heart shape in 1901, appealing specifically to Valentine’s Day sweethearts.
How ‘X’ came to mean ‘kiss’
The idea of using a kiss to sign off on valentines also has a long history, according to the Washington Post. The use of “X” came to represent Christianity, or the cross, in the Middle Ages. During the same time, the symbol was used to sign off on documents. After marking with an X, the writer would often kiss the mark as a sign of their oath. As the gesture grew among kings and commoners to certify books, letters and paperwork, these records were described as having been “sealed with a kiss.”
Box of chocolates
The Valentine’s Day tradition of giving a box of candy was started in the 19th century by Richard Cadbury, a scion of a British chocolate manufacturing family. With a new technique recently established at the company to create more varieties of chocolate, Cadbury pounced on the opportunity to sell the chocolates as part of the beloved holiday.
‘Wearing your heart on your sleeve’
The term “wearing your heart on your sleeve” may have origins in picking a valentine. Smithsonian reports that during the Middle Ages, men would draw the names of women who they would be coupled with for the upcoming year while attending a Roman festival honoring Juno. After choosing, the men wore the names on their sleeves to show their bond during the festivities.
Cupid began as a Greek god
The chubby baby with wings and a bow and arrow that we call Cupid has been associated with Valentine’s Day for centuries. However, before he was renamed Cupid, he was known to the ancient Greeks as Eros, the god of love. Eros, the son of Greek goddess Aphrodite, would use two sets of arrows—one for love and another for hate—to play with the emotions of his targets. It wasn’t until stories of his mischief were told by Romans that he adopted the childlike appearance that we recognize today.
First valentine was written from a prison
History’s first valentine was written in perhaps one of the most unromantic places conceivable: a prison. Charles, Duke of Orleans wrote the love letter to his second wife at the age of 21 while captured at the Battle of Agincourt. As a prisoner for more than 20 years, he would never see his valentine’s reaction to the poem he penned to her in the early 15th century.