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Why Couples Began Sending Valentines

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! Retailers everywhere are hoping you (or your beloved) will put down your book long enough to buy flowers, chocolates, jewelry, or some other token of affection.

But when did this tradition begin? Believe it or not, early humans missed out on the joy of receiving a sentimental symbol–or the heartbreak of being left out. It wasn’t until the 18th century that couples built their expectations of marriage on a foundation of mutual fondness rather than a power move for their families or some kind of political strategy.

Without their parents around to tell them who to love, how was a lord or lady supposed to make their affections known?

Thank Cupid for valentines, because without them, those poor lost souls might still be wandering through Europe, waiting for fate to make all their decisions.

Early valentines were homemade, often with the assistance of letter-writing manuals and books of poetry. By the next century, retailers sold ready-made valentines. The first commercial valentines were made, of course, in the United States–with glitter, no less.

What’s the best Valentine you ever received? I’d love to hear all about it!