For our novella, Will and the Valentine Saint, Bonnie and I did research about how the Victorians celebrated February Fourteenth.
Quick side-trip to our story: A Valentine bonbon from Devon/Dee, book two in the Victorian
Holiday Hearts series.
Will Andrews wishes to escape the madness of his bohemian family. He dreams of an orderly, quiet life. Hiding his eccentric theater background with false recommendation letters, he interviews for a position at a legal aid society. The last thing he expects is to feel something more potent than respect for his genteel employer, Hugh St. John.
When Hugh needs a secretary, one magnetic candidate has a draw he can’t resist. Will Andrews shares his vision for the Society and is also the most attractive man he’s ever met. But Hugh has never even kissed a man and certainly wouldn’t throw himself at an employee.
As the pair plans a Valentine charity dinner, they grow ever closer to surrendering to their delicious desire. But when Will’s hidden background is revealed, can Hugh forgive his lies and omissions and trust him again?
On to the celebration! The Victorians went all out when it came to Valentine’s Day—with cards, that is. Christmas cards weren’t in vogue yet and Valentine’s Day cards were commercially produced decades before them. The Major Romantic Occasion phenomenon we know wasn’t in place. That meant most people didn’t pull out the wallet for more than a bit of pasteboard and perhaps a pair of gloves.
So if you want to party Valentine’s Day Victorian style, make your honey a card. Here are some fun traditional cards: http://home.kendra.com/victorianrituals/Victor/val.htm
If you’re going authentically Victorian, you probably won’t get pearls and diamonds because, other than the cards, the rituals we think of as standard weren’t in place. Interestingly enough, people in previous eras had given more extravagant love tokens but that had mostly fallen out of style, perhaps because Victorians often sent cards to a number of people to mark the day, not just romantic partners. One person theorized that the long economic downturn in the late 1880s helped keep Valentine’s Day less excessive.
If you want to celebrate in the lower key, here are some other less-expensive ways authors tell me they consider appropriate for a special occasion.
Some describe their ideal romantic celebrations.
1. For me going "out" on Valentine's Day is not fun, relaxing or romantic. Restaurants are overburdened which usually means the service and food are not up to their usual snuff. Since I live in New England and am not a snow bunny, outdoor activities are out. For this reason if my husband were to make me breakfast (served in bed or at the table is fine), give me time to soak in a bubble bath, followed by a foot massage... I'd think I were in Heaven. If he followed that up with a "movie date" (our living room, snuggled on the couch with popcorn, Lindt chocolate and a movie I WANT to see) the day would be perfect, fun, relaxing and very romantic.—Gail Chianese
2. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Valentine’s Day. I’d like to wake up to the smell of blueberry pancakes and bacon. From there, flowers are nice, as is chocolate and a sweet, heartfelt card. I’m also not opposed to a nice dinner out and a late dessert. [Nothing too expensive of course!]—P.J. Sharon
3. Quiet candle light dinner at home, no fuss, no interruptions.--Marian Lanouette
4. I enjoy the standard walk on the beach and even a snowball fights, but I think my partner taking the time to clean the house or do the dishes is even better and cheaper (hey, no gas to get there!) and I appreciate it more. Also let’s not forget the romantic fun of watching dirty movies together. --Linda Gayle
And some recall favorite (inexpensive) gestures of love from the past:
5. My husband, pure Alpha, doesn’t really do a lot of romantic gestures like boxes of chocolate or flowery cards. He’s more the type to thank me for making dinner in front of all the kids (every night of their lives!) and turn to me in the middle of the day and tell me I’m beautiful. I love that! But, again, no cards/flowers/little gifts. So, one year—I don’t know why—but he presented me with an angel’s food cake covered in fresh whipped cream and strawberries. He’d made the whole thing himself from scratch. He’d even bought the special heart-shaped pan! It was awesome. --Erika Kelly
6. The cheapest valentine was my most memorable one—and the first one with Mr. Darcy. He brought home a tiny Venus Fly Trap and proudly explained that I could keep it in the kitchen window and feed it hamburger. I was a vegetarian at the time and failed to appreciate his unique offering. Now? I think it was the sweetest thing. We were dead broke and he couldn’t afford flowers or candy, but he wanted to get me something memorable and lasting. He did.--Lb Gregg
7. We had no money and my boyfriend gave me little hand-made cheap construction paper hearts he’d made, each with a promise for exchanges like administering back-scratches and walk-the-dog-
were designed for me specifically so they were better than anything off the
rack. I still have a few, decades later.
8. Out of all the Valentine’s Day cards I’ve gotten over the years (and I’m 50 so we’re talking a lot of years), the only one I can honestly remember is the one a long-distance lover sent me 25 years ago. He Fed-exed a giant handmade heart card. He wasn’t an artist or anything so it wasn’t super fancy but it was personal and thoughtful. Not something quickly picked up at the supermarket. Thinking about it still brings a smile to my face because it was fun and unexpected (and the sheer size of the card was impressive). --Julia Gabriel
9. Here’s a link to a song that my husband sang. https://soundcloud.com/bonnie-davidson-2/lady/s-Scr7R It’s as romantic as anything I’ve ever received. --Bonnie Dee
And a reminder that Valentine’s day is about love, which isn’t always romantic passion:
10. My dear old dad sent me flowers from “Your Secret Admirer” the first year I was out of college, alone, living in a new city. I called to thank him, and he valiantly denied the gesture.--Kristan Higgins
If you’re interested in seeing more about Will and the Valentine’s Saint, click here.