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The History Behind Valentine’s Day Symbols

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Valentine’s Day is a day of love and light that is celebrated around the world. The day is full of traditions from giving gifts of roses, heart shaped things, chocolates, candies, and so much more. Many symbols have come to be associated with the day throughout the history of the holiday, being seen all over holiday gifts and decorations. How did these traditions and symbols come to be?

One of the most popular Valentine’s Day symbols is the symbol of Cupid.

Cupid is a little, often naked cherub who looks like a baby in most depictions. He is usually seen with a bow and arrow as he is said to shoot his arrow into a person who then falls in love with the first person they see. That is why people often say phrases like “you have been shot by Cupid’s arrow,” when someone falls madly in love with someone else. However, Cupid actually has roots that go far deeper. He is a Roman God who actually has connections to Greek Mythology, being linked to the Eros, the Greek god of love.

The mythological stream is a bit fuzzy for Eros, with some saying he was born the son of gods Nyx and Erebus, while others say it was Aphrodite and Ares. Some even claim he is the son of Iris and Zephyrus or even possibly the son of Aphrodite and Zeus (who also fathered Aphrodite). The Greek mythology bloodline can be hard to track and/or understand, but there is no doubt Eros is powerful and the god of love. He is said to have shot golden arrows into people to create love and leaden ones to create an aversion in people. This is where the story of Cupid stems from, as he is technically Cupid, but in the Hellenistic era, Eros’ depiction turned into the adorable little chubby cheeked child that we see on cards and decorations today.

The rose is the flower that became associated with Valentine’s Day because it symbolizes beauty and love.

Cards have become a common place item for gift giving for this day of love. By the 18th century, handwritten notes were starting to be given as a way to show affection and in 1900, printed cards were first manufactured, starting the future we now live in of highly commercialized gift giving. One woman, Esther A. Howland, is referred to as the “Mother of the Valentine” as she is who first began the mass production of cards, using things like lace and ribbon to decorate her cards.

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