Here was me - the cynic - thinking that Valentine’s day was a “Hallmark Holiday” that had blown over from the US - but not so according to history! In fact the Feast of Saint Valentine goes back as far as 496AD when Pope Gelasius added Valentine of Rome to the calendar of saints. The romantic association and traditions were established later, though.

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Fun fact: some of Valentine’s relics rest at Whitefriar Street Carmelite church here in Dublin.

The origins of the celebration as we know it today, goes back to the middle ages, when the idea of courtly love developed - an idealized and often illicit love between knight and noblewoman. It’s the stuff that continues to inspire literature and plants the seed for popular series like Bridgerton (Netflix - season 2 coming soon!).

By the 18th-century we see many of the Valentine’s day traditions established as we know them today: couples exchange small gifts like flowers, confectionery and handmade greeting cards (known as "valentines") as ways to express their love. More recently these traditions have expanded to include meaningful gifts including jewellery.


So there you have it, The Hallmark Company - didn’t invent the holiday, but their ability to mass produce cards helped many a clumsy romantic express their love with a lovely poem on a pretty card. That said, we are delighted to see that recently the meaning of the celebration is winning ground over the convenience of the mass-produced gifts.

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To make sure your gesture of love stands out, we recommend you avoid the commercially produced gifts as a gesture at Valentine’s. Start with a beautifully handmade piece from DesignYard like one of the items pictured above. For bonus points add a little something from Ireland's wonderful craft and design scene - look out for small businesses that make quality handmade items. Here are some of our favourites to get you started:

Blooming Amazing Orchid Planter
February 03, 2024 — Nicole van der Wolf