Are Americans falling out of love with Valentine’s cards?
People used to send cards on Valentine’s Day, now they send emails, texts, and tweets.
The holiday was originally declared as a feast day by Pope Gelasius in 498 A.D. and to fall on Feb. 14 in order to celebrate St. Valentine, or Valentinus, a Roman priest jailed by the Emperor Claudius II. The legend goes that Valentinus helped to cure his jailer’s blind daughter’s vision, and that before his execution he wrote her a note signed, “from your Valentine.”
Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since at least the Middle Ages, with the oldest known Valentine being a poem from 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife after being captured by the forces of Henry V during the Battle of Agincourt. So, the tradition seemed to have passed from one prisoner to another.
Today the holiday is observed around the globe, and is a boon for America’s economy, however the mode by which people send their Valentines has shifted. According to the National Retail Foundation, the purchase of physical cards has been steadily declining. In 2017, only 46.9 percent of consumers purchased cards, down from 47.9 percent in 2016.
Perhaps there is a little bit of the holiday lost in the slow abandonment of this tradition. “I think the biggest difference is today people seem to send their Valentines or their cards via email or social media,” said Stephanie Kibler, meetings and events manager at the Steele County History Center. “I think technology and social media has played a huge role in the dwindling of Valentine’s Day cards.”
To celebrate the holiday, the History Center featured an exhibit of Valentines from the past, some as old as 1919. Among the artifacts was an old box of chocolates from Costas Candies, back when it was known as George’s Candy Kitchen.
Also featured were old cards and handmade items from the holiday, including several humorous or intricately designed cards. Some even had moving parts. “I think the goat one is my favorite,” Kibler said while looking over the exhibit. “I like that it has a little satire to it.”
With a holiday that centers around human interaction and communication, the means by which people do so in turn have affected the holiday itself. However, for many Americans, the tradition of sending and receiving cards will never get old.
“There’s something romantic about getting a card,” Kibler said of the tradition and the value of receiving a card or a gift. “It’s the thought that someone went through all the effort, picked it out, wrote a message, and went to post office.”
The next small exhibit to be featured at the Steele County History Center will be spring themed, complete with hand painted and hand decorated eggs as well as wall art. Large exhibits that will be featured until next fall include Over Here, Over There: The Great War and Toys & Play, 1970 to Today.