Americans probably began exchanging hand–made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass–produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card–sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.
There are a number of Saints called Valentine who are honored on February 14. The day became associated with romantic love in the Middle Ages in England. This may have followed on from the Pagan fertility festivals that were held all over Europe as the winter came to an end. Traditionally, lovers exchanged hand written notes. Commercial cards became available in the mid nineteenth century.
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