Valentine’s Customs Around the World

When I began writing Be My Texas Valentine I decided not to do the typical boy meets girl on Valentine’s Day story. I wanted something different, so decided to use the facts around the railroad coming to the Texas Panhandle coupled with a true story that took place at the second town established in the Panhandle, Old Tascosa. As the story went, the men wanted to add gravel to the town’s dusty streets to entice the merchants to come to Tascosa thus making certain the railroad didn’t bypass the town. There was a need for an organ at the church, so an oyster supper was held at the Exchange Hotel. I took my creative liberties to determine that the women wanted the organ and the men being merchants wanted the gravel streets.

Oh by the way, for those who don’t know, the coast of Texas is about a fourteen hour drive today, so the “oysters” no doubt were mountain oysters (calf fries to some) but that could only take place during “cutting season”. Since my story was to take place in February, I had to change the type of benefit; thus, a boxed supper for the women and a BBQ and beer for the men.

That was the birth of Loving Miss Laurel, but lot of things changed as I galloped along with the novella. I decided the women of Farley Springs wanted a library, while the mayor and the other men thought paved streets were needed. My visionary mayor had a lot of surprises thrown at him … the first being his childhood sweetheart showing up from back East and then she got bamboozled into helping the women make sure the money raised was for the library.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it’d be fun to look at its history and customs; and man oh man, did I ever find a lot of interesting things to share with you all today. We all know that most of the Western countries celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th, and most of the U.S. customs; so I’m going to go back a few centuries, oh let’s say as far back as the 17th Century and look at some.

In Europe, people celebrate in many ways. In some areas of England, people bake valentine buns with caraway seeds, plums, or raisins. People in Italy hold a Valentine’s Day feast.

In Britain and Italy, some unmarried women get up before sunrise on Valentine’s Day. They stand by the window watching for a man to pass. They believe that the first man they see, or someone who looks like him, will marry them within a year. William Shakespeare, the English playwright, mentions this belief in Hamlet (1603). Ophelia, a woman in the play, sings: Good morrow! ‘Tis St. Valentine’s Day All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your valentine!

In Denmark, people send pressed white flowers called snowdrops to their friends. Danish men also send a type of valentine called a gaekkebrev (joking letter). The sender writes a rhyme but does not sign his name. Instead, he signs the valentine with dots, one dot for each letter of his name. If the woman who gets it guesses his name, he rewards her with an Easter egg on Easter.

Many Valentine’s Day customs involved ways that single women could learn who their future husbands would be. Englishwomen of the 1700’s wrote men’s names on scraps of paper, rolled each in a little piece of clay, and dropped them all into water. The first paper that rose to the surface supposedly had the name of a woman’s true love. Also in the 1700’s, unmarried women pinned five bay leaves to their pillows on the eve of Valentine’s Day. And, one description of Valentine’s Day during the 1700’s tells how groups of friends met to draw names. For several days, each man wore his valentine’s name on his sleeve. The saying wearing his heart on his sleeve probably came from this practice.

The earliest records of Valentine’s Day in English tell that birds chose their mates on that day. Shakespeare also mentioned this belief in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A character in the play discovers two lovers in the woods and asks, “St. Valentine is past; Begin these woodbirds but to couple now?” Of interest, DeWanna’s story in our anthology is entitled Sweet Talk and has love birds in it.

One of the oldest customs was the practice of writing women’s names on slips of paper and drawing them from a jar. The woman whose name was drawn by a man became his valentine, and he paid special attention to her.

Many men gave gifts to their valentines. In some areas, a young man gave his valentine a pair of gloves. Wealthy men gave fancy balls to honor their valentines. The custom of sending romantic messages gradually replaced that of giving gifts.

In the 1700’s and 1800’s, many stores sold handbooks called valentine writers. These books included verses to copy and various suggestions about writing valentines.

Do you have a favorite custom you share with your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? To celebrate the upcoming holiday, I will give one lucky commenter an autographed copy of Be My Texas Valentine.

 

 

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

25 thoughts on “Valentine’s Customs Around the World”

  1. Phyliss,

    Thanks for such an interesting post! I loved reading about all the different customs.

    I don’t have a sweetheart, so no personal customs.

    BE MY TEXAS VALENTINE is waiting on my Kindle. I can’t wait to read it!

    –Kirsten

  2. Well sadly I don’t have a sweetie to celebrate Valentine’s day with, but I do celebrate with my grandkids. They are young enough to get excited about exchanging valentines at school. I get a kick out of helping them.

  3. Anon1001, I think reaching out to others who don’t have sweethearts is a precious idea. I love it. And, Kirsten, thanks for your post. I hope you enjoy the book. We had fun writing it and the reviewers have been very kind to us. Ladies, thanks for stopping by today. Hugs, Phyliss

  4. No special someone right now, so no favorite customs. Thanks for letting us know the different Valentine’s customs around the world. It was a fun post.

    e.balinski(at)att(dot)net

  5. Linda, I love to celebrate with my grandkids. When my daughters were young, my husband always made sure they had a little box of candy. Now they are grown women with kids of their own. Last year, a friend and I who have granddaughters the same age (BFF’s you know) got together and had a tea party for them. Jodi made cupcakes and icing. I brought the princess dressup clothes, including tierras for all. We iced cupcakes and had tea, including both of them dancing. They had to kick off the plastic shoes, but then they are Texas girls … we don’t dance in anything but boots anyway. Fellow Filly, Linda Broday, was in town that day, so she got to join us having tea. Oh yes, she had her own tierra, too. It was fun and I think we’ll probably do it again this year. Grandchildren are so much fun when it comes to just about any holiday. Big hugs to you, Linda.

  6. Hi Phyliss, I love the history her, having always been a fan of Valentine’s Day. We always celebrated when I was little. Dad would buy a giant heart-shaped box full of Ses’s candy for mom, and little ones for us kids. Each day in our lunch boxes would be a piece of candy for a treat. I looked so forward to savoring it.

    These days, hubby usually gets me a funny card rather than a romantic one. Aw, men. LOL. Now I’ve got my TWO little grandsons to spoil. oxox

    I’ve got this book in the Kindle…waiting to finish edits so I can start it. oxoxox

  7. Fun tidbits today, Phyliss. I especially enjoyed the background on wearing one’s heart one’s sleeve. Very cool. Can’t wait to read your Texas Valentine anthology. It’s on my TBR shelf already!

  8. Joanne, thanks for stopping by. I have a sweetheart who I’ve had for 43 years, so I think he believes after all these years he’s exempt from buying me flowers or candy. But in true fairness, I can’t count the times I’ve said … oh but, I’m on a diet or that cut flowers just don’t last enough. I guess I should expect a cactus and a bottle of Slim Fast this year, huh? Have a great day. Hugs, P

  9. Hi Sister Filly, Tanya. Your dad sounds like a neat guy. I make lunches for six of my grandkids, so think I’ll steal your mother’s idea and put a piece of Valentine’s candy in their lunches. I have Miss Debbie valentine cakes for them next week, but a little piece of candy would be nice … not sure the teachers will like the extra sugar during lunch, but it’s only once a year!

    There was way too much history in my research to use, but one piece discussed when the humorous cards came into existence and really more about the history of the valentine card. I still have one more blog before Valentine’s day, so might go more in depth into the subject. Hope you enjoy our stories in “Be My Texas Valentine”. Hugs, Phyliss

  10. Loved reading the history and customs about Valentine’s Day. My husband usually gives me chocolates and some years he has surprised me with pink carnations or roses. I also love it when he gives me a card that he has made himself.

  11. We don’t do much Valentine’s Day special stuff. But our anniversary is January 29th so to balance out the lack of romance on Valentine’s Day we also ignore our Anniversary.

    🙁 You think I write romances for NO REASON????

  12. Phyliss,
    I loved all these facts about Valentine’s Day! I dind’t know all this–so cool. Your novella sounds terrific, and I’m looking forward to reading it. My dad used to always buy me, my 2 sisters and my mom each a beautiful heart box of candy every Valentine’s Day. My husband never made a big deal over Valentine’s Day, but I always got the kids a box of candy and a card when they were little. Thanks for a great post!
    Cheryl P.

  13. No sweetheart for Valentine’s Day, but I will help my 3 year old nephew make little valentine projects to pass out to our family.

  14. Phyliss, thank you so much for this wonderful history of Valentine’s Day..It is amazing how we only see one side of certain holidays and customs. I love it..
    Can’t wait to read these wonderful stories… I can’t remember the last time i received anything on Valentines Day.. But to me it is just another day…

  15. The last 3 years we have treated ourselves to a day at the spa and/or playing golf. No sharing of candy or roses since those are thing that can be given all year long.
    Your book sounds really good.

  16. Lori, how sweet! Your guy making a card just for you. Now that’s a cool man. Pink roses and carnations are really pretty.

    Mary, you’re too funny. But you know it is kinda nice to write romance … write what us gals want and need, not necessarily what we always get. I’m bettin’ he’s a wonderful guy. I asked mine not too many years ago why he never really tells me he loves me. His comeback, “If it ever changes, I’ll let you know.” Then he told me he loved me and kissed me passionately and … oh that’s the writer in me coming out. LOL

    Thanks Lori, and sister Filly Mary, for taking the time to comment. Hugs, P

  17. So many respondents who don’t have a ‘sweetie’. I am included in this. All my Grand children and Great Grandchildren live in the Northern part of the state or in neighboring states. My single daughter and I don’t much celebrate this day. We go for the lesser ones. Flag Day, Statehood Day, etc.. Just to be different. I guess we are weird. When I did have a ‘sweetie’, he didn’t believe in this gushie stuff. (I think he was embarrassed).

  18. Spritz cookie hearts. I have told the story of these on this blog before so I won’t repeat it again, but I shall be sharing spritz cookies on Valentines day.

  19. Cheryl P, sounds like your husband and mine are about the same when it comes to Valentine’s! But it’s the other 364 days of the year that counts. Right?

    Colleen, how wonderful that you help your nephew with his valentine’s projects. That’s so sweet. I’ve helped my grandson in year’s past and it seems they were more interested in making sure their “crush” (for those who don’t know … that’s the new word for a boy/girl you like LOL) have a special valentine. Just right. Not too gushy, but enough to let them know they are their crush.

    Kathleen, thanks for dropping by. I thought some of the customs and ideas from other parts of the world were really interesting. I’ve seen the day, many, many years ago, where I might have tried any one of them to find just the right man. But low and behold, I found him without putting any sage under my pillow or running around the church LOL. You all have a wonderful afternoon. Big hugs from Texas, Phyliss

  20. Joye, what a great way to spend time with your special one. The spa is perfect for me, but I’d have to pass on the golf, although my hubby would love it! I tried to play once or twice to impress a guy and it was so boring and I hated walking around for no good reason except to find a ball that I’d send flying off into the wild blue yonder, so went to bowling as a sport … at least my ball came back to me and I only had to take four steps to get it! LOL Hope this Valentine’s Day is special to you. Hugs, P

  21. Dina, you are the perfect romance reader then! Thanks for stopping by. And, Mary J, as I’ve already said my hubby isn’t into fluff in the least, so I understand. But then as I’ve already confessed to you all, I can’t blame him when I discourage it while all along thinking “surely, he’ll know no really means yes, surprise me.” Think I need to get one of those books about women saying one thing and meaning something else, but after 43 years of marriage, I’d think Bob would know it. LOL

  22. Connie, I don’t remember of spritz heart cookies, so I’ll go back and look in our archieves. Are they like a butter cookie? Mary J., I think it’s cool that you and your family celebrate other holidays. I don’t do enough of that, but it made me think. Thanks for dropping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  23. Hi Phyliss – I simply LOVE Valentine’s day. Great Blog on its origin and how we celebrate. I remember school days when my kids would bring home cards from their classmates and the funny way the boys would sign their names to the girls’ cards. Too cute. I saved many of them. 🙂

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