How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day in the past was celebrated with the same mythical reverence as All Hallows’ Eve.  There were homemade parties, costumes, and fortune telling games across communities. Today there is so much plastic and commercialism that I want to create an homage to some of these old traditions.  

My first memories of Valentine’s Day was decorating my own shoebox for Valentine’s.  I am from the generation of pre-printed 2D Valentine’s cards. (Bonus points if you can staple a piece of candy to your Valentine!). We would eat cupcakes and cookies.  Fortunately, we are from a time where homemade treats were still allowed to be brought to the classroom.  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

A Little Valentine’s Day History

Of course, the basic concept of Valentine’s Day began in Roman times with the fertility and festival of spring Lupercalia.  Later it was changed to honor a few Christian martyrs named Valentine, of course. By the late 1600s, people were recording sending personalized homemade Valentine’s loved ones.  The Victorians were all over the holiday. The first commercial commercially produced cards came about in 1846.  

Although I am all about not spending money for Valentine’s Day, I enjoyed reading about the DIY Valentine’s parties of the past.  I particularly enjoyed reading about the parties before World War I when things became simpler for war time.  I found some fun descriptions of parties in Genealogy Bank newspaper database.  

Party Menu 

Refreshments at these get together always entailed heart shaped things.  Heart shaped sandwiches, cookies, and cakes. Some even mentioned custard molds as well in the shape of hearts.  Most featured a frosted cake as the centerpiece of the spread. There was a party game where charms were baked in the cake as a fortunes for the guests.  You can a cookbook of recipes from 1910 here.  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Set the Scene and Decorate 

The newspaper articles described the decorations in detail.  Rooms covered in thousands of red paper hearts and ribbons were popular.  Another element was using tropical plants in the decorations. Some mentioned red cardboard hearts with a background of green foliage circa 1913.  Red carnations were also popular flowers to use in early party schemes. They also recommend subduing lights with tissue paper or sheets to ‘set a mood.’ 

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Games and Entertainment 

I feel like party games have gone to the wayside.  Although, I would not take back fun nights playing Apples to Apples or the Game of Things for anything.  It is nostalgic to think of day where we had to find our own entertainment before television or smart phones.  Here is a list of cute games: 

-Blow bubbles through a hanging. heart ring.  

-Hide small hearts around the room to find like Easter eggs in order to win a prize.  (Prize for the most or finding a prize gold heart.) 

-Make heart puzzles to put together at a kid’s table. 

-Have a Cupid spinner that tells fortunes.  

-Have guests draw paper fortunes from a Valentine’s box.  

-Create a target with hearts and shoot heart darts or arrows at the target.  Make the heart with cardboard and colorful paper. 

There is even a cute song to go with the heart target game:

“If your arrow hits the white.  Watch! Your lover comes tonight.

If your arrow hits the blue.  The one you love will prove true.  

Wealth and pleasure and yellow gold.  But no true love does this heart hold.  

If the arrow hits the red.  You, I fear, will never wed.

If your arrow hits the black.  Something good your love doth lack.”

From:  “Valentine Day Parties” Colorado Springs Gazette.  February 12, 1905, pg. 28.

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
Valentine courtesy of the Elder Collection at the Local History and Genealogy Department Biloxi Public Library

Gifts From the Heart 

Gifts have not changed from the beginning.  Cards, flowers, and candy were still the predominant gifts given in the past.  Each party recommended having prizes and favors for your guests to bring home. Think of something cute and creative like tissue paper flowers or homemade candy to go with decor.  

What’s your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?  

How to Have a Vintage Valentine’s Day
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