A Victorian Valentine
Since the early days, Eureka Springs has had a truly, glorious history. Budding and blooming during the Victorian Era, our Eureka Springs has been "on the map" and "in the press" for healing water, prohibition, gambling, American Indians, scalding hogs, gay and lesbian advocacy, barefoot balls, impressive architecture, hippie arts, preaching the word, and so, so much more...
Those that lived lived during the reign of Queen Victoria were considered - The Victorians. This reign was from June 1837 until the date of her death on the January 22, 1901 and it was an era of exciting discoveries, mind-blowing inventions and exploration that followed the Industrial Revolution.
The Victorians were really something!
They didn't take themselves too seriously. When it came time to dote on their better half, they would use humor and poetry, hand-crafted, artistic cards and love letters (handwritten from the heart, of course) as opportunities to make their partner laugh, smile, and feel special. They'd also present their lover with a box of home made chocolates (and, often, the box would be in the shape of a heart) along with pressed flowers from a field or meadow.
They absolutely loved to attend private dinner parties in private homes with other couples that were also celebrating -- and all this in the name of simply expressing their love and devotion to each other.
Strangely, during the majority of the 19th century, citizens of the United States did not celebrate Valentine’s Day. It was considered a Saint’s day and therefore was marked by folk traditions that were largely left behind in the Old World.
It wasn't until about 1849 - at the height of the Victorian Era - when Valentine’s Day became enormously popular and uniquely American.
But how did it all begin?
According to most folktales, Valentinus (as he was originally known) was a Christian residing in Rome. This was around 269 AD - a time under the rule of Roman emperor Claudius II who happened to be an enthusiastic pagan with little tolerance for blaspheming followers of that "carpenter from Judea."
Valentinus, you see, was a priest with a penchant for conducting clandestine weddings between soldiers and their betrotheds thus making him quite successful at converting Romans to Christianity.
Of course this made him much more of a target to the Emperor because, well, Claudius, according to the age-old story, had forbidden his soldiers to marry, believing that marriage made them less effective at slaughtering the enemies of Rome.
Therefore, Claudius called Valentinus to his quarters because he learned that he was conducting these weddings and he attempted to convert priest back to paganism, but Valentinus refused to budge, instead attempting to convert Claudius.
Claudius, as expected, would have none of this and ordered Valentinus to be arrested and sentenced to death.
Valentinus was sent back to prison, where he struck up a friendship with a young blind woman and since all saints must are known, at some point, to have performed a miracle to be qualified for sainthood, Valentinus also had his "miracle moment."
One evening, he prayed over his love and instantly her sight was restored.
The day before his execution, the condemned priest sent a beautiful, heartfelt hand-written note, in which he said goodbye to her; and it is believed (to this day) that he ended this sweet little "love note" with the words, “From your Valentine” ... and the next day, February 14, Valentinus’ head was lopped off.
Saint Valentine and been known as an intermediary between lovers, ever since.
The popular story of lovers sending valentines to one another in homage to the saint eventually overshadowed the austere, religious narrative that was said to have taken place between Claudius and Valentinus.
In 17th century England, valentines were chosen by chance at parties, following a tradition of nuptial prediction games.
In the mid-19th century, in Worcester, MA in 1847, Valentines were so popular that Miss Esther A. Howland not only achieved her fortune, but also established an entirely new industry in this country by owning and operating the first of many paper companies that began selling pre-made valentines.
A new industry was born - the greeting card business - and these pre-made, mass-produced valentines quickly replaced the earlier hand-written versions.
The holiday also became more elaborate and highly sentimentalized through the late 19th century. Even with a destructive fire in 1910, by 1915 Worcester Magazine assessed that “ninety per cent of the valentines that are exchanged on St. Valentine’s Day come from Worcester.”
This year, fly back in time, haul out the glue gun and acquire lace doilies at Dollar General. Put the cell phone in the other room, sit yourself down and make something truly special, and truly Victorian, for your love. Go on, make them their very first - Victorian Valentine.
Trust me, it WILL go over well. The heart, love and genuine sentiment that you put into making it will make all the difference and you'll enjoy the time you spend while making it because that will be a time when you're thinking about the very one you love, how much they mean to you and how they may react upon receiving your Victorian work of art.
Happy Valentine's Day from your local lovemonger - www.iloveureka.com ❤️