Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Victorian Valentine's Day by Alison Henderson

Well, it’s the morning after. Sigh. Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day yesterday? Perhaps, like many of us, you’re saving your celebration for the weekend.
As we munch our strawberries and chocolate and sip champagne while gazing at the sparkling diamonds bestowed upon us by adoring admirers, it’s fun to spend a moment thinking about how we got to this point.

The tradition of celebrating St. Valentine’s Day in England goes back over four centuries and is even mentioned by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but modern valentines are largely a creation of the early Victorians. The reduction in postal rates in England in the early nineteenth century made paper valentines so popular they started being assembled in factories. Fancy ones included real ribbon and lace.

As with so many other fashionable Victorian customs, the celebration of Valentine’s Day quickly jumped the pond. The first commercial valentines in the U.S. were produced by Esther Howland in Massachusetts in 1847, and by 1849, a writer in Graham’s American Monthly wrote “St. Valentine’s Day…is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday.”

Unfortunately for the heroine of my Western historical, Harvest of Dreams, Valentine’s Day is pretty much like every other day. On February 14, 1866, young widow Lisa McAllister is cooped up inside her farmhouse in snowy western Missouri with a man who drives her crazy. No valentines. No candy. No champagne. How sad.

I invite you to stop by my website at for more details about these two lovebirds, and have a Happy Valentine’s Day whenever you celebrate!



Barbara Edwards said...

Interesting facts. I need to read your book. That scene sounds fascinating.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Barbara. Harvest of Dreams was my first book, but I decided to highlight it because the cover is so pretty and spring-y. This time of year, it doesn't hurt to remember that spring is right around the corner.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I loved that book, Alison. He was so good to her, she didn't need a Valentine's Day card...just the way he looked at her was enough.

Alison Henderson said...

Vonnie, when people ask me which of my heroes is my favorite, it's always Jared :)

Jannine Gallant said...

Loved the mini history of Valentine's Day - and Harvest of Dreams. Wonderful story and a beautiful, beautiful cover!

Colleen Connally said...

Beautiful cover! Lovely Valentine history. Didn't know it had been around for so long.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Alison,
That was so interesting, I didn't realize Valentine's Day went back so far.