Victorian Rituals

Victorian Valentine

In the language of St. Valentine's Day, a red heart symbolizes a holiday of love and romance.

Lacy valentines of the Victorian era reached their peak in the years 1840-1860. On delicate lace paper handpainted motifs such as; cupids, birds, flowers, hearts, and darts may be enhanced with chiffon, silk, satin, tule, or lace. Novelty valentines might feature a tiny mirror, an envelope, a puzzle purse, or a slot to hold a lock of hair. There were valentine checks drawn against the Bank of Love, and valentines printed to look like paper money. One of these looked too much like a real five-pound note and was quickly recalled.

Some valentines were decorated in watercolor or in delicate pen and ink. Often the handwriting was a thing of beauty as fine penmanship was considered a form of art.

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  • Puzzle Purse valentines were a puzzle to read and to refold. Scattered among their many folds were verses that had to be read in a certain order.
  • Acrostic valentines had verses in which the first letter of the lines spelled out the loved one's name.
  • Cutout valentines were made by folding the paper several times and then cutting out a lacelike design with scissors.
  • Pinprick valentines also had the look of paper lace. These were made by pricking tiny holes in paper with a pin or needle.
  • Theorem or Poonah valentines had designs that were painted through a stencil cut in oil paper, a style that originated from the Orient. A coat of gum arabic kept the paint from running.
  • Rebus valentines had verses in which tiny pictures took the place of some of the words. An eye might stand for the word I, a heart shape for the word heart.
  • Fraktur valentines had ornamental lettering in the style of illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages.
  • Love Knot valentines were made of ribbon or drawn on paper and consisted of graceful loops, sometimes in the shape of hearts. On the loops were written messages that read by turning the knot about.

The Love Knot says, "The knot of love which has no end to let you know my love is true and that to none alive but vow. So be my wife and live with me as long as life shall granted be and I shall ever faithful prove of thee alone my only love sweetest of creatures to thee I send."

The British were proud of their Navy, so some of their valentines showed a sailor on board a ship or a sailor enjoying a parting kiss from his sweetheart. Others pictured such events as the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1835.

During Queen Victoria's reign, Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway, famous for their children's book illustrations, designed valentines. At twenty-two, Kate Greenaway sold her fist design for fifteen dollars. Within a few weeks sales amounnted to 25,000 copies. She designed others for a number of years, but was never paid a penny more.

Today Kate Greenaway's valentines are collectors' items, as are those designed by Walter Crane. Favorite valentines designed by Kate Greenaway picture charming children dressed in quaint costumes of the previous century.

A token of love in the 19th century was a paper hand, which was a symbol of courtship. Tiny paper gloves were also popular. Real gloves had long been a favorite valentine gift, especially in the British Isles were it became a true love token. With them went verses like this:

If that from Glove, you take the

letter G

Then Glove is Love and that I send

to thee.

Sometimes the gloves was a way of proposing. If the girl accepted, she wore them to chruch the following Easter.

Green leaves stood for hope in a love affair. Perhaps this is why British girls used to place bay leaves sprinkled with rose water on their pillows on St. Valentine's Day Eve. They hoped to see in their dreams the faces of their future husbands.

Good valentine, be kind to me;

In dreams, let me my true love see.

During the Civil War there were special valentines for soldiers and their sweethearts. Some showed couples parting ways. Others had a tent with flaps that opened to reveal a soldier. This was called a Window valentine. Another Civil War novelty was the valentine that included a lock of hair. And another was the paper doll valentine that had a printed face and feet, with the figure dressed in cloth or paper.

There was a time when tomatoes grew only in flower gardens and considered unfit to eat. Yet they were admired for their beauty and called love apples. During this period valentines were being produced in the form of tomatoes.

Come 1880, valentines had lost their delicacy. Fringes and tassels replaced the fine lace paper. Many would be smothered in feathers, fake flowers, jewels, beads, seeds, and berries. There were still lovely valentines, but many were in such poor taste that many people lost interest in them. And by the end of World War I, English valentines had become relics of a bygone era.

A lighthearted holiday, Valentine's Day is a time when people express feelings of friendship, affection and love. For that little something extra, mail your valentines from Loveland, Colorado. Visit this website for more information: Re-mailing Valentines from Loveland Colorado.

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