Godey’s Lady’s Book played an important role in shaping the cultural customs in 19th century America. The “Queen of Monthlies” is best known for the hand-tinted fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, which provide a record of the progression of women’s dress.
Beyond clothing fashions, the articles and editorials in Godey’s included descriptions of current trends and acted as an arbiter of manners and helped shape many of the traditions practiced by American families today.
This was part of an 1890 series of articles covering a year of American domestic traditions and lore.
A Year in the Home: February
By Augusta Salisbury Prescott
What are you going to do this year to keep alive the memory of Saint Valentine? Do you know who he was and why he is peculiarly entitled to be held in loving family remembrance?
He was a bishop who dwelt in Rome, and who made it his special care to look after the happiness of married couples, and to assist the young in their matchmaking. So it would be more than a pity if we were to allow the good old custom of celebrating his birthday to fall into desuetude. And then, too, the early months of the year are so long, and ofttimes tedious, that one may be glad to enliven them by taking advantage of every festival possible.
The old idea of sending a valentine in the form of a painted square of paper, containing a sentimental verse and, mayhap, a little looking-glass, has entirely gone out. But in place of this style have come others that make of valentine offerings. things of beauty and a joy as long as they last. They are souvenirs similar to those of Christmas, birthday and Easter, save that they differ in the sentiment, having on them a light line or two, or even no inscription at all save the date.
They can, of course be bought readymade in the stores. But they are expensive, if one gets nice ones, and cheap substitutes are not permissible. The alternative is to make them, and this can be easily and satisfactorily done at home if one is at all clever. And, besides, the work will form a pleasant diversion for the dull monotony into which one is apt to sink after the Christmas festivities.
A pretty little valentine, and one easy to make, is fashioned in this wise:
Take a piece of celluloid, four by six inches, and in the upper right hand corner trace the date in dainty lettering. Fasten a narrow strip of celluloid across the lower left hand corner, securing it in place with bits of “baby” ribbon. Under this strip slip a card on which are the words “My Valentine,” done in old English or Roman text.
A very beautiful little remembrance is of rough paper cut in the shape of a rose and painted to represent one. Petals and stamens are all represented, and inside the painted rose is a slip of paper bearing the verse:
The days are long and dreary,
Outside the cold wind blows;
So I will send my greeting
In the heart of a rose.
Another, though more perishable offering, is of roses and callas. Mass them together in such a way that a calla, the largest one of all, shall form the centre. On the big, white sheath of this calla, trace delicately with a pin the words “Saint Valentine, 1890.” Should the letters not come out sufficiently clear, dust a little pink powder, or diamond dust over them.
Still another way may be added to the apparently endless number of ways of using calendars. Fasten a small one near the end of a broad piece of satin ribbon, and on the end of the ribbon inscribe the verse:
That winter joys may be with you,
That summer joys may be thine,
I send a year of good wishes
To you as a valentine.
A cunning little valentine, that may be sent as a reminder to a remiss correspondent, is a square of birch bark, securely tacked to a thin strip of wood. On this another piece of bark is fastened to form a pocket for postage stamps. On the bark is the lettering:
Sing a song of love, dear,
Is what I ask of thee.
I send a nest of little birds
To bring your words to me.
A valentine party is something of a novelty and, whenever tried, is sure to be a success, because its very nature furnishes an excuse for informality and merry-making. The invitation may read thus:
MISS ANNA GRIFFIN,
No. 618 NORTH CLINTON STREET,
February 14th, 1890. At 8 o’clock.
A Valentine Party.
When the guests are all assembled, each one is given a card on which there is an incomplete quotation, the remainder of which is held by some one else in the party. The one having the first line being a gentleman and the one having the second line, a lady; or vice versa . It is the duty, then, of each gentleman to look up the other half of his quotation, and to act as escort to the young lady having it. A great deal of amusement is found in thus hunting up one’s mate. Sometimes, if the quotations are unfamiliar ones, it will be difficult to decide which is the correct accompanying one; and the hostess must be called upon to unravel the mystery. For example, one card will bear the line:
“Beaming with light as those young features are,”
and its mate will read,
“There is a light round thy heart which is lovelier far.”
Another card will say:
“My soul like some dark spot is haunted,”
and its companion will say:
“By thee, thee, only thee.”
Other verses, such as the following, may be so divided:
“Hither come and gaily twine
Brightest herbs and flower of thine,
Into wreaths for those who rule us.
Those who rule and (some say) fool us.”
“‘Tis woman whose sweetness beameth
O’er all that we feel or see.
And if man of Heaven e’er dreameth
‘Tis when he thinks purely of thee.”
“But lips though blooming must still be fed.
And not even love can live on flowers.”
“Sweet love of mine, my life and thine
Are linked by hidden chains.”
And an endless number of others. The cards should be made pretty enough to be kept as souvenirs.
For a supper menu one may be as elaborate or as simple as possible. A happy medium is this:
At each plate place a little fancy basket filled with candied rose leaves, violets and sugared nuts. After the confections are eaten, the baskets may be taken home by the guests.
Many pretty little variations may be made upon a valentine party, so as to adapt it to suit all cases. And should ever any party at all be deemed too giddy for the household, the quietest of families can, at least, celebrate the day by having a better dinner than usual, thus adding one to the list of yearly feasts.
Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book, February, 1890
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