Why is Valentine’s Day associated with love and wearing red?

style blogger in LRD accessorized with gray tights, boots, belt and layering top
In this post
  1. Three St. Valentines decaptivated
  2. What is the historic and cultural meaning of red
    • Anger, aggression, danger, and passion
    • Blood, sin, guilt, sacrifice
    • Love, sex, blood, sin, guilt
  3. Commercialization of the color of love
  4. References

Three St. Valentines decaptivated

When you research the history of St. Valentinus, you dig deep into the history of the Roman Catholic church and the ligurical calendar. There had been three different saints with the name. None of their faiths was related to love stories in the sense of a Hollywood movie like Pretty Woman, Sabrina, When Harry met Sally, You’ve got mail or European 1950s love stories like Sissi (a movie about the Austria Emperess) or the 1937 Herbert Wilcox‘s movie about Queen Victoria meeting and marrying Prince Albert. On the contrary, at least two of the saints were beheaded for their religious believes and faiths, i.e. love to God. Ok, decaptivating causes a spill of blood. It’s a far stretch to see a connection.

What is the historic and cultural meaning of red

Historically, red has always been an ambigious color in the Old World. It has symbolized anger, aggression, danger, passion, blood, sin, guilt, sacrifice, courage, and in some societal classes, the shade was also associated with love and sex. Still today, you want to look sexy and attractive on Valentine’s Day.

Terms that we use every day relate to these cultural associations. For instance, red-handed – referring to the blood on the hands of a murderer, but also for for a person caught while committing a crime. Another example is red-light district.

Have you ever wondered about the slight reddish light in the grocery store meat section? It serves to make the meat look fresh! Again, think of blood.

stylist in LRD with gray belt, tights, slouchy boots

over 50 years old fashion blogger in cherry midi dress
Outfit details: Vince Camuto slouchy suede boots, statement belt, DIY earrings, layering top, J. Peterman knit dress (all own) and tights c/o Hipstik

Anger, aggression, danger, and passion

In ancient times, red was accossiated with the God of War, Mars (Romans) and Apollo (Greeks). Think of injuries, for instance! War is dangerous and aggressive and the soldiers have a passion to survive. Today stop signs have that color. The devil is painted in this color.

Oil painting on canvas of Apollo and Aurora by Gerard de Lairesse Gift of Manuel E. and Ellen G. Rionda, 1943
Oil painting on canvas of Apollo and Aurora by Gerard de Lairesse (Dutch, 1641–1711). Date:1671. Credit Line: Gift of Manuel E. and Ellen G. Rionda, 1943. Down loaded from the Met Museum

In the middle ages, flying a red flag over a town indicated that the population would defend the city, no matter what. Flying a red flag on a warship served to convey the message to the enemy that there would be no mercy.

Blood, sin, guilt, sacrifice

In the Roman Catholic church, popes and cardinals wore red as a reminder of the blood of Christ, Christian martyrs and saints on Palm Sunday (in anticipation of the Jesus’ death) and martyrs’ days. Here one could see a connection between the color and St. Valentinus as these men were Christian martyrs. Interestingly, Valentinus was often painted in a green robe (see painting below).

painting of Saints Credit Line: Bequest of James Clark McGuire 1930
Hand-colored woodcut of the Saints of Passau, Germany, Valentinus, Stephanus and Maximilanus (left to right) by Hans Burgkmair (German, 1473–1531). Date:1503–1505. Credit Line: Bequest of James Clark McGuire, 1930. Downloaded from: Met Museum.

Did you every think about the tradition to present the bed sheet of newly weds to the community in some cultures? Have you ever thought about what it meant for a newly wed woman (and her family) when her husband was too beer dopped? Or the pressure on the newly weds?

Love, sex, blood, sin, guilt

In the Greek and Hebrew culture, red was considered the color of love. In Isaiah, it reads “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

In the early middle ages, a French poem is about finding a red rose in a closed garden. In this poem, the rose stands for a woman (or love).

Recent scientific studies revealed that men rate women wearing red more attractive than when the same women wear blue. I am wondering whether this finding relates to giving the illusion of more weight. Sort of better chances of survival for potential offsprings?

sexy leopard print boots

fashion blogger with long curls, knitdress, tall boots

woman in Valentine's Day outfit inspiration
J. Peterman knit dress, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, GNW tight, Manelo Blahnik leopard print boots, smoky quartz necklace, layering top (all own)

Commercialization of the day and color of love

The custom to send cards originated in the United Kingdom. In the 18th century, people in love sent each other handmade, paper cards with poems. In the 19th centrury, lace cards, cards with Cupid, hearts, and doves carrying little heart envelops, flowers, etc. became available for purchase.

historic Valentine's Day card Downloaded from the Getty Museum open program
I’m Your Valentine. Artist/Maker: Henry Pointer (British, 1822 – 1889) Culture: British. Date: about 1865 Medium: Albumen silver print. Downloaded from the Getty Museum open program

In 1847, Esther Howland (1828–1904) of Worcester, MA received one of these cards from a business friend of her father’s. Shortly thereafter, she ordered such mass-produced cards and started selling them. Interestingly, green (which stands for hope in the European culture) was a typical color for the cards, among blue and an orange looking shade.

Historic Valentin card by Esthere Howland Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981
Esther Howland (American, 1828–1904) cameo-embossed lace paper chromolithographed die cut scraps, green glossy paper, blue ink, red ink Valentine card. Date: 1847–1870. Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981

Today nearly every business pitches in to get a piece of the cake. Crimseon roses, ruby rings, Hershey kisses, strawberries in chocolate, restaurant special dinners, dances, you name it. I saw even a rack entirely devoted to the little red dress (LRD) at Value Village!

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How bloggers wear red

A while ago, I asked seven of my blogging friends to >reveal their secrets on how redheads look stunning in red. In honor of V-day, some of my blogging friends and I demonstrate how bloggers wear the color of love.

February Stylish Monday hostesses

Don’t let the right outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy the book now.

We cordially invite you to the February Stylish Monday linkup party.

Nina of Sharing a Journey

Nina in a carmine mini dress and white plateau shoes with straw and leather bag

Andy of Pearls and Pantsuits

Andrea Schwartz in camo pants and ruby shoes and sweater

Hilda of Over the Hilda

blogger in wine coat, black pants, top and sandals, rose print scarfCindy of Cindy Scurry

Andy in kimono with white denim and T-shirt, ruby heels

Nancy of Nancy’s Fashion Style

Nancy Baten of Nancy's Fashion Style in pink skirt, sandals, black blazer with rose coral belt and top

Photos: Courtesy to these bloggers

Stylish Monday linkup party

Julie of Fashion Trends and Friends

Julie Augstyn in monochromatic pants with striped sweater plus booties look

Emma Peach of Style Splash

Emma of Style Splash in rainbow colored OOTD

Michele of Seechele Styles

Michelle Clark in cableknit top, denim and sneakers

Suzanne of Asksuzannebell

Suzanne Bell in roast double-breasted blazer and black pants

Robin Rooms Revamped

Robin LaMonte in floral pants with leopard print scarf and pumps for Vday

Like these outfit ideas? If so, please feel free to pin them to your own Pinterest board.

Are you registered for my Newsletter to let you know about new posts, how tos  and special style subjects? I’d highly appreciate it if you take the time to sign up and ask your friends to sign up too!!

Photos of me: G. Kramm

References

Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men’s attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

© 2013-2020 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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7 thoughts on “Why is Valentine’s Day associated with love and wearing red?

  1. Nicole I always love your posts when you delve into history, traditions and hidden meanings. I love red and yes I think it gives a glow to my face.

  2. Thanks for the nice compliment on the post and photos. I just love doing this. For me there is nothing as interessing as the “why is that?”.

  3. Me too. We are such a diverse group and so each lady’s post is so unique and different despite we show the same photos. It’s so much fun. I hope our readers have as much fun as we have with putting this together.

  4. As always, your wonderful research skills brought forth much to ruminate on this Valentine’s Day. Yes, fertility does reign supreme in ancient civilizations when it comes to the color red, but that was the directive of royalty and pauper alike back in the day, nowadays, the color is a wonderful reminder of feminine strength and empowerment. Nicole, thank you for making us think; it is just as fantastic a Valentine’s Day gift to your fans as much as that ‘glance-over-the-shoulder’ look in the red dress/ grey slouch boots third pic! You’re always awesome, and you look stunning just being awesome as well! Cheers!

  5. Nicole,

    That’s quit the history lesson on Valentine’s day as well as the tradition! Totally not what you’d expect especially the decapitations!

    Love your red paired with gray and leopard! I look forward to each month’s collaboration and seeing how each woman has interpreted the theme!

    Julie xo

  6. Thank you so much for the history “refresher” (much of which I did not know)! I’d never really thought about red brightening the complexion, but of course it does – bringing a rosy glow to our faces. Your red dress is beautiful and I love it with the gray tights and booties but it also looks amazing with the leopard boots (I think the second look with your hair down and the leopard boots definitely is a sexy look). And thank you so much for the linkup!

    Ruth

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