The History of Valentine’s Day

Did You Know: Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.

Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? Find out about the history of this centuries-old holiday, from ancient Roman rituals to the customs of Victorian England.

THE LEGEND OF ST. VALENTINE

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

ORIGINS OF VALENTINE’S DAY: A PAGAN FESTIVAL IN FEBRUARY

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

VALENTINE’S DAY: A DAY OF ROMANCE

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

TYPICAL VALENTINE’S DAY GREETINGS

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.

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.

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Glenn Beck: Multilingual Coke Ad Meant To “Divide Us Politically

Glenn Beck was none too pleased with Coca-Cola’s new multilingual ad, saying on his radio show the ad’s purpose was to “divide us politically.”

“So somebody tweeted last night and said, ‘Glenn, what did you think of the Coke ad?’ And I said, ‘Why did you need that to divide us politically?’ Because that’s all this ad is,” Beck said. “It’s in your face, and if you don’t like it, if you’re offended by it, you’re a racist. If you do like it, you’re for immigration. You’re for progress. That’s all this is: to divide people. Remember when Coke used to do the thing on the top and they would all hold hands? Now it’s ‘Have a Coke and we’ll divide you.’”

Watch Glenn Beck’s full commentary on the controversial ad here.

Here’s Coca-Cola’s multilingual rendition of “America the Beautiful”:

Diesel’s New Campaign Featuring Disabled Fashion Blogger Smashes Stereotypes

Remember last year how Diesel announced the appointment of their very first Creative Director, Lady Gaga’s former stylist, Nicola Formichetti? And remember how we all thought it was so rad that for his first appointment, he decided to cast models for the new campaign from Tumblr instead of a model agencies’ books? Well if you didn’t know anything about the very rad Diesel Reboot campaign, now you do!

Here’s some more exciting news from the denim label, they have just released new images of their Spring/Summer collection, and shown pics of some of the 23 bloggers and new faces Formichetti cast, and one of them is going to change the face of the fashion industry forever.

Her name is Jillian Mercado, she is a fashion blogger from NYC, a former fashion student and she is also in a wheelchair. Now just that fact alone would be enough for all major brands to overlook this spunky young chick. After all, disabled people are the most underrepresented group in the entertainment industry, and the largest minority in the world. It is about TIME a major label took the time to acknowledge diversity in all forms! Thank you Diesel :)

Jillian can regularly be found at the front row of New York Fashion Week, but it was a bit of a journey to get there. Born to Dominican parents who were both involved in the fashion industry (her mother was a dressmaker, father was a shoesalesman) she grew up loving fashion and style. At the age of 12 she was misdiagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which she later found out was actually spastic muscular dystrophy.

She has two younger sisters, but was never treated any different from them, which Jillian says helped her grow up with the mindset that she could do anything.

After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she interned for fashion magazines such as Allure, and started her own blog Manufactured1987 which she still runs today. Although being in a wheelchair has presented logistical problems at some venues, and garnered differing attitudes among the hoity toity of the fashion world, it doesn’t phase Jillian one bit.

“I work equally as hard as everyone else does in this industry, and my chair doesn’t give me permission to slack off,” she told The Daily Beast. “My passion is equal to yours—I just come with a chair that moves.”

“When I was in the sixth grade, a physical therapist told me that no matter what I would do, I would always have to work twice as hard as everyone else because of being disabled—which has made me stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally.”

But now with her appointment as one of Diesel’s new breed of tastemakers and fashion influencers, Jillian is relishing the opportunity to be a point of difference in a normally autonomous, and narrowly-defined world.

“I do appreciate people who come up to me and tell me how refreshing I am, and that they want to see more of me around. When someone appreciates you for who you are, it’s absolutely the best feeling anybody can ever have. I love to feed into positive energy, and when that’s around you, you just feel like you can take over the world.”

Her positive outlook on life and go-getter attitude was something that caught Nicola Formichetti’s eye in the Reboot casting process, and boy did he make the right decision to include her.

“It’s never easy for her to move from point A to point B, but she’s totally fearless and has really been an inspiration to me,” Formichetti said to Womens Wear Daily in an interview. “You don’t have to be a conventional model type to represent a brand.”

Our thoughts exactly!

Jillian knew from the beginning of her career how narrow-minded the fashion world can be, but was determined that she can be part of it in a new unique way.

“It means so much to me because it’s the fact that someone who is different is representing Diesel,” she told the Guardian. “[It shows] anyone can rock the clothes and look beautiful. For me it represents way more than just a campaign. A lot of people will see it and will have a change of mind of how they see people who have a disability.”

“If you want to do something, it takes dedication but it doesn’t matter what other people say. Be you and go for it – I try to keep that in mind. I hope something continues to happen, like this [campaign],” says Mercado. “People should have an open mind. If I’m helping to make it move forward, that’s awesome.”

How ridiculously awesome it is to see some real diversity in a brand that is representing millennials! We always get so encouraged to see campaigns and hear of stories like Jillian’s. It’s further proof that there should be nothing in your life that can stop you from being unashamedly you. Don’t change just to try and fit in somewhere else, because then the world misses out on the true authentic version of you, and there’s only one of you!

Jillian’s story inspires all of us to be brave and be confident. “Anyone can wear Diesel – You don’t have to be a supermodel, you don’t have to be a millionaire, you can wear it no matter who you are and what you look like.”

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1981: When Toy Ads Encouraged Girls to be Builders and not Princesses

Reddit and Tumblr recently went crazy over a 1981 Lego print ad, singling it out as emblematic of a time when girls were encouraged to build, rather than be princesses. As inspiring as the ad is, though, the backstory behind it is an equally uplifting tale of female empowerment.

The “What is Beautiful” ad was created Judy Lotas, who was the creative director at SSC&B, a now-defunct ad agency. Female creative directors are rare even these days — just 3% of creative directors are women, according to one survey. Things weren’t any better in 1981, just a decade or so out of the Mad Men era.

Yet Lotas, who now runs ad agency LPNY, wanted to make a statement. She had two young daughters at the time, and gender equality was a big topic. “This was the time of the ERA,” Lotas said, referring to the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for women.

“My daughters were of Lego age,” she told Mashable. “I felt strongly that it wasn’t just for girls. It was kind of a personal bias I had.”

 

Lotas recalls that the ad was very well-received. At the time, the Starch Test, which measured readers’ recall of print ads, was the industry standard. The Lego ad scored very high on the Starch Test, according to Lotas. Encouraged, Lego stuck with the ad for several years. A television campaign (not available on YouTube) showed kids who built their own toys — for instance, a guitar — when their parents refused to buy them one.

Years later, Lotas left SSC&B to start Lotas Minard Patton McIver, which was run by Lotas and three other female advertising veterans. Meanwhile, Lego dropped the campaign, and its toys evolved from the open-ended bag of bricks seen in the 1981 ad to sets that were built around a theme, for which kids were challenged to recreate models featured on the boxes (i.e. Lord of the Rings).

After surfacing on Reddit last week, the 1981 ad prompted some to compare it to today’s marketing to girls, which tends to emphasize looks over achievement. (As The Huffington Post pointed out, even Lego’s current marketing reflects this style.)

The ad also continued a discussion, which began with a viral video that introduced startupGoldieBlox. The video offered a similar message of empowerment for girls.

For her part, Lotas said she hasn’t seen the GoldieBlox ad, although many people have mentioned it to her recently. She was also aware — and proud — when her old Lego ad made the rounds again.

And what about the girl? Sadly, Lotas doesn’t remember the name of the cute redhead in the ad. “We would have three kids for each shoot, and take tons of pictures,” she said. Thirty-three years later, the girl’s identity remains a mystery.

If anyone knows what became of this girl, please let us know in the comments, and we’ll update our story.

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Twitter Users’ Diversity Becomes an Ad Selling Point

For most of its rather short life, Twitter Inc. TWTR +0.53% rarely mentioned that its user base is more racially diverse than U.S. Internet users as a whole. Now, as a newly minted public company needing to generate revenue, it is moving to capitalize on its demographics.

n November, Twitter hired marketing veteran Nuria Santamaria to a new position as multicultural strategist, leading its effort to target black, Hispanic and Asian-American users.

Together, those groups account for 41% of Twitter’s 54 million U.S. users, compared with 34% of the users of rival FacebookFB -0.04% and 33% of all U.S. Internet users, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

Ms. Santamaria says advertisers want to know more about racial and ethnic minorities on Twitter, from basic numbers to the languages in which they tweet. Last month, Twitter began showing ad agencies data from a coming report saying that Hispanics tweet more often than other users and activity among them rises when the conversation is about technology.

Marla Skiko, executive vice president and director of digital advertising at Starcom Media-vest Group’s multicultural division, says some advertisers are surprised to learn the demographics of Twitter users. She says Ms. Santamaria’s hiring will help Twitter attract advertisers that appeal to racial and ethnic groups. Until now, she says, “there hasn’t been a champion internally.” Starcom Mediavest Group is owned by Publicis Groupe SAPUB.FR +0.52% .

Ms. Santamaria is starting with Hispanics. Twitter’s share of Hispanic users roughly parallels the U.S. online population, but it is a fast-growing, increasingly affluent ethnic group.

Hispanics are also more easily identified because of their language. Twitter doesn’t ask users about race or ethnicity but categorizes them into “interests” based on their tweets and whom they follow. A user who follows a Telemundo show or tweets in Spanish would be considered interested in Hispanic culture even if the user isn’t Hispanic.

 Facebook says its Hispanic users upload more photos and videos, make more comments, and “like” more posts than other users

Other social networks are pursuing similar strategies. Facebook Inc. in November hired an executive from Spanish-language TV network Univision Communications Inc. Facebook is also telling advertisers more details about its 23 million users who have shown an interest in Hispanic culture and making it easier for advertisers to target them. For example, Facebook says its Hispanic users upload more photos and videos, make more comments, and “like” more posts than other users. Hispanics account for 14% of Facebook’s U.S. users, according to Pew, making them the social network’s largest minority group.

Roughly 18% of Twitter’s U.S. users are black, according to Pew

Twitter’s strength is among blacks. Roughly 18% of Twitter’s U.S. users are black, according to Pew. That’s nearly twice the 10% of U.S. Internet users who are black and significantly more than the 11% of Facebook users who are black, Pew says. (Facebook has more black users because it has more than three times as many U.S. users as Twitter.)

Among young adults, the disparity is striking. According to a September Pew survey, 40% of black Internet users aged 18-29 use Twitter, compared with 28% of whites in that age group.

millennials

Some advertisers have long taken note. To connect with blacks on social media, “we chose to really what I would say ‘major in Twitter,’ ” says Georgina Flores, director of multicultural marketing at Allstate Corp.ALL -0.42% For a recent campaign called “Give It Up For Good,” part of an ongoing effort to reach black consumers, Allstate created a dedicated Twitter handle and a Twitter-centric website, and it placed advertisements on Twitter. The campaign’s aim is to encourage blacks to share positive and uplifting stories about the community.

Twitter plays a growing role in Home Depot‘s HD -0.67% four-year-old “Retool Your School” campaign, which gives grants to historically black colleges for building or renovation, says Monique Nelson, CEO of UniWorld Group, the creative ad agency for Home Depot’s multicultural advertising. For a recent grant, winners were determined partly by the number of mentions of a school on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There were 143,000 relevant mentions on Twitter, more than 10 times as many as on Facebook or Instagram.

To generate buzz for the movie “12 Years a Slave,” Cornerstone Agency hosted small screenings to which it invited “influencers” with big Twitter followings, says Jon Cohen, Cornerstone’s co-chief executive. Guests included hip-hop artist and producer Pharrell Williams, who boasts 2.5 million Twitter followers, and Michael Skolnik, the editor in chief of Global Grind, a pop-culture news site.

“The hope was that people see the film and they feel compelled to talk about it, and Twitter is usually that medium, especially among the African-American target” audience, says Mr. Cohen.

Twitter has long been known for its popularity among blacks, giving rise to a cultural phenomenon known as “Black Twitter.” Racially tinged hashtags such as #IfSantaWasBlack and #PaulasBestDishes have risen to the top of Twitter’s trending lists. The latter referred to chef and cookbook-writer Paula Deen‘s admission last June that she had used racist language.

 

Meredith Clark, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who is studying “Black Twitter,” says blacks flocked to Twitter because it is used primarily on phones, and smartphones are the primary Internet device used by many blacks. She says some young blacks use Twitter in place of text messages, encouraging their friends to join the service as well.

Genie Lauren, a 29-year-old New Yorker who works in higher education, organized a Twitter protest last July against a book planned by a juror in the George Zimmerman trial. Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted in the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black Florida teenager. The shooting and trial sparked much interest on Twitter, with five million tweets sent in the first 26 hours after the verdict.

Ms. Lauren tweeted the name and contact information of the juror’s book agent and asked her then roughly 2,000 followers to urge the agent to drop the project. She says she chose Twitter because she saw that the Twitter users she follows—three-fourths of whom she estimates are black—were upset by the verdict.

She also says she sensed that the combination of Twitter’s immediacy and the mood among those users could “get a lot of people to behave in one way at a critical time.” The agent dropped the book the next day.

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Lingerie Brand Aerie Isn’t Retouching Its Models With Photoshop For Its New Ad Campaign

The use of realistic body images seems to be a recurring theme among retailers these days.

Using the tagline “The Real You is Sexy”, the Aerie Real campaign is aimed using models who haven’t been digitally enhanced. Aerie is one of many retailers who are opting to show models that realistically portray the customers who shop with them.

The company hopes to make normal women feel good about their bodies and is even asking women to use the #AerieREAL hashtag to share photos of themselves via social media.

Perhaps the tide of using overly photoshopped, unrealistic models to sell products is finally changing. Time will tell.

Dove Short Film Embraces ‘Selfies’ to Redefine How We Perceive Beauty

“The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change”

Dove is debuting at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Monday a short film that explores how social media is shaping the way the we perceive beauty.

The 7-minute short film called Selfie follows a series of teenagers and their mothers who are asked to take self-images that highlight their insecurities about the way they look. In an experiment reminiscent of Dove’s viral “beauty sketches” ad, the participants learn some of their disliked attributes are what others consider to be the most beautiful.

At the backbone of Selfie is research conducted by Dove which revealed 63% of women believe social media is influencing today’s definition of beauty more than print media, film and music. The film, directed by documentary filmmaker Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese, aims to empower women to redefine the traditional perception of beauty found in glossy magazines and movies.

“The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change,” Wade said. “Now, we have the ability to photograph the beauty we see in our friends and ourselves. When we share these diverse images on our social networks, we are taking personal ownership and truly redefining beauty.”

Overall, the film encourages women to pick up their mobile devices, capture who they are and influence the conversation around natural beauty. That’s right: Dove wants you to embrace the selfie.

 

‘Elle’ Mindy Kaling cover slammed as racist, ‘fat-ist’

Elle magazine seems to be covered in controversy lately.

They wrapped Melissa McCarthy in a capacious coat last year. And now for one of four February fronts, they’ve hacked Mindy Kaling off at the chest and shot her in black and white — while her fellow funny ladies of TV, Allison WIlliams, Amy Poehlerand Zooey Deschanel, are pictured full-length and in full color.

And the Internet has taken notice.

“Mindy Kaling’s Elle cover looks different from the others,” posted Jezebel.

Some readers were more direct: “@ELLEmagazine’s cover featuring Mindy Kaling is a post-racial liberal’s wet dream. Unfortunately, it’s still racist. Try harder Elle.”

Others were positively blunt: “@ELLEmagazine Mindy Kaling cover just plain racist and fat-ist. You do not empower women ELLE, you bring them down.”

Not helping matters: The verbiage Elle sent out from editor in chief Robbie Myers in their press release heralding the quartet of images. “The covers we shot with Zooey Deschanel, Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Allison Williams are all distinctive.” Indeed.

This morning, Kaling seemed to defuse (capitalize on?) the perceived photo fail in a tweet, which Elle retweeted: “Wishing for more skin on my @ELLEmagazine cover?Chris Messina & I are naked on a brand new #themindyproject tonight, ya pervs! 930/830 FOX”

Elle‘s statement? “Mindy looks sexy, beautiful and chic. We think it is a striking and sophisticated cover and are thrilled to celebrate her in our Women in TV Issue.”

UPDATE: Kaling has just posted another tweet:

“I love my @ELLEmagazine cover. It made me feel glamorous & cool. And if anyone wants to see more of my body, go on thirteen dates with me.”

[via USA Today]

[Infographic] Latin America Has World’s Fastest Growing Internet Population

With the fastest growing Internet population in the world, everyone has their eyes on Latin America. As successful businesses look to expand, the rise of the Latin American digital consumer deserves strong consideration — Twitter, Netflix and Waze are examples of businesses that have scaled in Latin America. And with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics set to take place in Brazil, big things are on the way for Latin America and its economies.

But beyond the economic investment in Brazil, the Latin American market has a strong digital footprint. The continent has 159 million consumers online –- a 21% increase from last year –- and 42% of these users are in Brazil, while 15% are in Mexico.

Even more surprising is the social media saturation in Latin America. An astounding 94.1% of Latin American Internet users are on social networks. The U.S., by comparison, has just 67% of Internet users on social networks.

The infographic below breaks down consumer trends in digital in Latin America vs. consumers in the U.S., including details on Internet adoption, the rise of ecommerce and rates of mobile usage.

 

[via Mashable]