Getting To the Heart of Valentine’s Day
Beyond The Hallmark Lies An Interesting History Rooted in Western Mass
Every year, Americans exchange an average of 142 million Valentine’s Day cards – making the holiday near the top of the list of card-exchanging holidays (second only to Christmas). Valentines come in many different shapes and sizes, and can be handmade or store bought, clever and creative, or very traditional. Whatever form they come in, the valentines that we exchange each year have their roots right here in western Massachusetts, and are symbolic of the love, caring, and appreciation that we have for the important people around us.
The American valentine industry was started during the mid-19th century by Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and Worcester native. Often called “The Mother of the Valentine,” Howland was inspired by the beautiful, ornate valentines imported from England and suspected that there might be a market for them in the United States, as well. Through her father’s paper company, she sold her first valentines in 1848 and within a few years was able to begin her own business, the New England Valentine Company.
These days, Howland’s tradition carries on in Hilltown Families’ annual Handmade Valentine Swap, wherein families from across western Massachusetts exchange homemade valentines via mail. Williamsburg’s Meekins Library currently houses an exhibit titled, “Handmade Valentines: Connecting & Expanding a Community Tradition,” which is made up of beautiful valentines from these swaps in years past, adding new valentines from this year as they arrive. Families can visit to explore the the many unique and artistic ways that families have found to share love with others.
In addition to exchanging valentines, families can celebrate and explore the cultural traditions that make up Valentine’s Day by attending exciting and engaging community events happening on Saturday, February 14th across Western MA:
9:30am-4pm – VALENTINE HISTORY: Learn about the historic roots of two Valentine’s Day traditions, chocolate and valentines, at Old Sturbridge Village! Historians will demonstrate how to process chocolate by hand, and then children will get a chance to make their own valentines. “Meet” Esther Howland, the woman responsible for the popularity of valentines in the United States. Discover the local history behind his mid-winter holiday. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. ($$)
1pm-3pm – MYO VALENTINES: Make some valentines at Knack this Valentine’s Day as part of Easthampton WinterFest. Make use of Knack’s great collection of materials and make a truly unique card! 413-529-0126. 116 Pleasant Street, Suite 126. Easthampton, MA. (FREE)
1:30pm & 3:30pm – MUSEUM ADVENTURES: Celebrate Valentine’s Day at The Clark this year! Visit the museum for a Valentine’s Day tea, gallery talks, a cappella performances by Williams College students, a photo booth, and more. Visit the museum and have fun at this special event! Reservations are required. 413-458-0524. 225 South Street. Williamstown, MA. ($$)
6:30pm-8:30pm – VALENTINE DANCE: Have some Valentine’s Day fun with Whole Children at their Valentine’s Dance! Kids of all abilities can have fun with friends and family and make new friends at this dance. There will be games and crafts in the back room for those who need a dance break. 413-585-8010. 41 Russell Street. Hadley, MA.
7pm-10pm – VALENTINE DANCE: Families can attend the 2nd Annual Valentine’s Dance at the Village Church in Cummington! There will be dancing, music by Jim K & Co., snacks, a raffle, and more. Proceeds benefit the Village Church. Tickets available in advance. 413-634-5398. Main Street. Cummington, MA. ($$)