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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Jennifer Watts
Do you enjoy a holiday? They are a time to celebrate friends, family, and the people we care about. What better day then Valentine’s Day to show someone you love them.
Valentine’s Day has been around for a long time. Longer than many people might know. The special day’s origins may go back to ancient Rome. Back then, they had a festival to celebrate the beginning of spring. In the 400s, Pope Gelasius I, made a Christian priest named Valentine the patron saint of love and marriage. It was said that he secretly married couples to save the men from going to war. Another story was that he cured a woman of her blindness and signed a letter to her “your Valentine”. No one knows for sure which of the many stories about St. Valentine are true.
In the 1500s, St. Valentine’s Day was made an official holiday in England. It was later spread to the Americas by early settlers. In the late 1700s, printed cards became popular. The tradition continued into the 1800s because of the mass production of cards. This was made possible by the Industrial Revolution. In a letter from the 1850s, Sarah Brown of Williamson County, Tennessee wrote to her sister. Her sister was attending school at Minerva College in Davidson County. She wrote about the fun things she was doing and what was happening at home. She also wrote about having a “sweetheart” and sending and receiving Valentines. Today, people still send Valentine gifts to the one’s they love.
Sarah Brown letter, Tennessee State Museum Collection.
Tennesseans are not the only people to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Every year people around the world commemorate a day of love in different ways. This day is not always on February 14th in other countries. In Brazil, it is celebrated on June 12th. In China, it is called the Qixi Festival. This holiday is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month.
The most common gifts are cards, flowers, and candy. Sometimes a fancy dinner is included in the celebrations. The museum has many artifacts related to Valentine’s Day. Some are homemade cards. For example, one from a WWII soldier named Kenneth. He made it himself and sent it to his sweetheart. Others are mass-produced by companies like the ones given by children to their school friends.
WWII Valentine from Kenneth, Tennessee State Museum Collection.
Valentine Card from the estate of Arah P. Peery, Tennessee State Museum Collection.
The tradition of Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for over 600 years. It is still big business to this day. In February of 2020, it was expected that Valentine’s Day spending across the nation would reach over $27.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. No matter how much money you spend or how you celebrate, Valentine’s Day is a special day of the year to show your loved ones how you feel.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all the junior curators out there.
Origin(s) - the point or place in time where something begins.
Tradition - a common belief or practice passed down over time.
Mass-Production - the making of goods in large numbers.
Commemorate - to remember something or someone with a special event or gift.
Lunar month - the time between one phase of the moon until it returns, for example, the time from one full moon to the next full moon.
Where did the Valentine’s Day holiday begin?
When did Valentine’s Day become an official holiday?
How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?
Create your own Valentine’s Day card or gift for someone you care about. It can be a card, drawing, flowers, etc.
Write a six-line poem using the AABBAA rhyme scheme for someone you care about. It can be a parent, sibling, friend or pet. Whoever you want.
“The Rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And fortune said it shou’d be you.”
Tennessee Social Studies Standard(s)
SSP.01 Gather information from a variety of sources, including:
Printed materials (e.g., literary texts, newspapers, political cartoons, autobiographies, speeches, letters, personal journals)
Graphic representations (e.g., maps, timelines, charts, artwork), Artifacts, Media and technology sources.
SSP.05 Develop historical awareness by:
Sequencing past, present, and future in chronological order
Understanding that things change over time
K.02 Compare and contrast family traditions and customs, including: food, clothing, homes, and games.
K.19 Locate and describe events on a calendar, including: birthdays, holidays, cultural events, and school events.
2.02 Compare and contrast the beliefs, customs, ceremonies, and traditions of the various cultures represented in the U.S.
Jennifer Watts is an Educator at the Tennessee State Museum.