Cupid is the Roman God of Love and the most popular symbol for Valentine's Day. Originally he was shown as a young man with a bow and arrows. But over the years, Cupid went from a handsome man to a pudgy baby. The reason is that the Romans had Cupid as the son of Venus (Goddess of Love and Beauty) and a symbol for passion, playful and tender love. His arrows were invisible and his victims (which could also include other Gods) would not be aware that they were shot until they fell in love. The Victorian era made Cupid proper for women and children, altering the Roman Adonis image to that of a chubby baby.
Hearts and Arrows
A heart (red or pink) with an arrow piercing through it is the most common shape and look for in a Valentines. The heart is a symbol both of love and also vulnerability. When you send someone a Valentine, you risk being rejected, so a piercing arrow is a symbol of death and the vulnerability of love. The pierced heart also symbolize the merging of the male and female as one.
Love Birds, Turtle Doves, Humming Birds, Birds of Paradise and even colorful Parrots, Roses and the Color RED, Love Knots, Paper Hands, Scrimshaw & Cameos and Valentine Lace.
Valentine Greeting Cards
The holiday evolved by the 18th century; gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts eventually spread to the American colonies. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland, a Mount Holyoke graduate and native of Worcester, Mass. Today, of course, the holiday has become a booming commercial success.
Valentine exchanges were popular in the Middle Ages, the oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library (one source states the card is on display at the British Museum) in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
Margery Brews (England) is also said to have penned the oldest known valentine in letter-form, dated 1477, sent to John Paston. For Valentine once meant "sweetheart" it grew to represent "message of love."
Another ‘first known’ Valentine credited to the US is a note written by John Winthrop in 1629 to his wife before leaving England for the New World. It ended with "My sweet wife, Thou must be my valentine for none hat challenged me." He later became governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Valentines did not always appear as hearts as we know them today. Most were known as "paper pockets" and were more like envelopes and folded over hand delivered. On 2-14-1667, Samuel Pepys in his diary described a kind of valentine that he got from his wife. It was a sheet of blue paper in which her name was written in gold letters.
According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)
Flowers For The Day
The Roman God, Bacchus (God of Wine and Joy) and Venus (Goddess of Love and Beauty) both considered the beauty and fragrance of flowers to be tied with romance and love. But since the time of Solomon, the primary flower linked to romance was always the rose. Cleopatra of Egypt covered the floor with roses before receiving Mark Anthony.
One Roman myth is that Cupid was carrying a vase of sweet nectar to the gods on Mt. Olympus and spilled it on the ground. From that spot of spilled nectar, roses grew! Anther myth surrounds the thorns on the rose stem. Cupid was stung by a bee from a rose, Venus became angry, told him to shoot some bees and string them and well, you can guess the rest.
Daisies, Violets and Bachelor Buttons
The Romans also believed that the daisy was once a wood nymph. One day, while dancing in a field she was seen by Vertumnus, the God of Spring and fell in love. But when he reached for her she got frightened. So, out of pity the other gods let her sink into the earth and she became a daisy. This may have something to do with the little ‘love-me/love-me-not’ picking of the daisy peddles. But that is another story.
It is said that Venus got jealous of a group of beautiful maidens, and when Cupid refused to say that his mother's beauty was greater than theirs, Venus became furious. Thus she beat her rivals (these beautiful maidens) until they were blue and she watched them shrink into violets. (Hmmm…’shrinking violets’)
Additional Floral Meanings
Bleeding Heart = Hopeless, but not heartless.
What To Eat On Valentine’s Day?
Researchers have found that when we fall in love, a chemical called phenylethylamine or phenylalanine is produced in the brain, and is responsible for that erratic, psychotic love high that we all feel at certain times. When phenylethylamine or phenylalanine is flowing through our veins it's as if we are on amphetamines. We can stay up all night and work all day the next day. And a pheromone called androstenol is also released, which heightens our sexual attractions.
Chocolate contains this ‘sexually enhanced’ chemical. Many psychologist feel that chocolate is an instant "love booster" when eaten. The idea of giving chocolate to someone we care about is, in a way, a means to stir up these same emotions, artificially if the receiver does not happen to feel the same way.
Historically, apples have been tokens of love and fertility. The Norse gods ate apples to stay young and scholars say that Hebrew women drank and washed with the sap of an apple for fertility. But, apples are NOT really the original aphrodisiac at all.
The Spaniards believed that the tomato (nightshade vegetation) to really be the true romance-inducing-fruit and brought the seeds over to the US from South America. So "love apples" are really tomatoes. Thus the phrase, "She's a hot tomato!"