Did you ever wonder why we associate Valentine’s Day with love? Or why do we wear red on Valentine’s Day? Did you ever aks yourself the questions “Where does the custom to send Valentine cards come from? Is Valentine the saint of the lovers?” Read to find out more about the history of red and St. Valentine.
- Three St. Valentines Were Decaptivated
- What Is the Historic and Cultural Meaning of Red
- Anger, Aggression, Danger, and Passion
- Blood, Sin, Guilt, Sacrifice
- Love, Sex, Blood, Sin, Guilt
- When Was the Start of Valentine’s Day Business?
- Commercialization of the Color of Love
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.
Three St. Valentines Were Decaptivated
When you research the history of St. Valentinus, you dig deep into the history of the Roman Catholic church, and the liturgical 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 Sissie (a movie about the Austrian Empress) 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.
Anger, Aggression, Danger, and Passion
In ancient times, red was associated 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.
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).
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-doped? Or the pressure on the newly weds?
Love, Sex, Blood, Sin, Guilt
The Greek and Hebrew culture associates red with love. In Isaiah, it reads “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
An early middle age 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?
When Was the Start of Valentine’s Day Business?
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.
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 (sincerity, trust, wisdom, confidence, authority), and an orange (amusement, unconventional, extroversion, warmth, energy, activity, determination) looking shade.
Commercialization Associate of Valentine’s Day with Love and Red
Today nearly every business pitches in to get a piece of the cake. Culturally, red is the color of love. It is aggressive enough to draw attention, and create an urge. 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!
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.
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.
Nina of Sharing a Journey
Andy of Pearls and Pantsuits
Hilda of Over the Hilda
Cindy of Cindy Scurry
Nancy of Nancy’s Fashion Style
Julie of Fashion Trends and Friends
Emma Peach of Style Splash
Michele of Seechele Styles
Suzanne of Ask Suzanne Bell
Robin Rooms Revamped
Conclusions on Why We Associate Valentine’s Day with Love and Red
Red stands for passion which is related to love (including self-love for survival and love to God/s). Valentine became associated with love due to literature (poems, novels), but these works didn’t associate Valentine’s Day with love, but a woman. At the beginning of sending Valentine’s cards on Valentine’s day, red was not in the focus. Commercialization requires catching colors. Therefore, the cultural association of red with passion and love came in handy. After some generations, it becomes a mainstream to associate Valentine’s Day with love and red attire for dressing for Valentine’s Day.
Photos: Courtesy to these bloggers
Photos of me: G. Kramm
Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D., 2008. Romantic red: Red enhances men’s attraction to women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
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