The History Behind the Heart Shaped Boxes of Chocolate


Juliana Palladino, Writer

Today, Valentine’s Day is celebrated with gifts and spending time with significant others, family, and friends. Everyone knows Valentine’s day as the day of love, but what is the actual  history or how it started?

There are many different legends of Saint Valentine: who he was, what he did, or if he even existed. However, two of these legends are most followed and believed. 

One legend says that Valentine was a priest who served in Rome in the third century. Emperor Claudius ll had decided that single men made much better soldiers than that of men with wives and families, which led him to outlaw marriage for young men. 

When Valentine realized the injustice of this outlaw, he chose to disobey and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret until  his actions were discovered and Claudius ordered him to death.

Some stories suggest that Valentine was helping Christians escape cruel Roman prisons, while another legend says Valentine was imprisoned, and actually sent the first “valentine” after he fell in love with a young girl. The girl was possibly the jailor’s daughter, and would visit him during his confinement.

Before his death, it is presumed that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” which is the expression used today. Although it is unknown which legend is true and the stories themselves are clouded with mystery, it is stressed that Valentine is a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure. 

While the word, Valentine, can be traced back centuries, the custom of sharing cards is more recent. In addition to the holiday, many other Valentine’s Day traditions have been going on for centuries as well, like the tradition of giving cards.

In America, the giving of homemade Valentine’s Day cards started around the early 1700’s, while manufactured cards popularized in the 1830’s. After this time, the availability of paper and the postal system made these valentines more accessible to the entire country. In 1847 Esther Howland, who is known as the “Mother of the American Valentine” received a Valentine that inspired her to create her own to sell. Over time, she was making around $100,000 a year, and in 1879 she joined forces with Edward Taft to create the New England Valentine Company. In 1881 a man named George C. Whitney bought the business and made it the Whitney Valentine Company which continued until 1942 when wartime paper shortages caused the company to close.

Despite the holiday’s longevity, many people still dislike celebrating Valentine’s Day. 

Something I dislike the most about Valentine’s Day is the amount of pressure included in the day. Most people feel lonely on Valentine’s Day and they do not have anyone to spend it with,” said Emerson Freshman Ava Sassi.

However, especially in the times the country is in now, it is important to spread love and come together as a community. 

“I feel that in our current situation, in a country that is heavily divided and a society that is plagued with a pandemic, it is not only more important to spread more love, but we all need to learn from this and realize that we need to spread love more often, whatever the circumstances may be. I think we need to give to others and show kindness, compassion, and love all the time,” said Emerson Freshman Zuzu Hill. 

For centuries, February is known as the month of love with Valentine’s Day in the middle of it. With many different generations, holidays had to adapt to the ever changing needs of the people. Now more than ever, it is important to spread love and positivity.