Card-giving hallmark of the day
By Karena Walter
A small greeting in an envelope. Whether stuffed into shoe boxes by schoolchildren or sent discreetly through the mail by lovers, Valentine's Day card-giving is a big business.
Second only to Christmas, Valentine's Day is the busiest selling season for card manufacturers. But the way people buy cards is constantly evolving.
"The trend has changed over the last year," says Vanita Knight, public relations person for Hallmark. Although comical cards were popular last year, this year the more traditional cards are the hot sellers, she explains.
"In the last few years people are becoming more interested in nostalgia," says Kendall Wigoda, corporate communicator for Carleton Cards. Messages chosen today are softer and gentler, a reflection of society, she says.
As well, men are becoming more noticeable card-buyers these days. "Men seem to be more comfortable sharing their emotions," Knight says and cards that say 'I love you' are a way to express these feelings. The two holidays of the year when men buy the most cards are Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, Wigoda commented.
And while many people still buy cards at the last minute, a lot of men are planning ahead of time, Knight says.
The first known Valentine was sent in 1415 by Charles duc d'Orleans. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and smuggled out the love note for his wife. The letter is now on display in the British Museum in London.
In the 18th century Valentine's cards were popular in France and cards were given throughout different periods in British history.
By the 1800s Valentines became a commercial product. Victorian cards were very fancy and ornate with lace and pop out features.
The focus of Valentine's Day has changed from when it began, Wigoda says. When society did not share feelings publicly, Valentines were a means of courtship. Today, however, Valentine's Day is not about romantic love only.
Teachers get more Valentine's Day cards than anyone else, Wigoda says. As well, cards for pets are becoming more and more popular as people are more emotionally attached to their pets. And if going the way of the traditional post office is not for everybody, cards can be purchased over the Internet for those who want to engage in a little cyber romance.
Both Hallmark and Carleton have been creating cards since the turn of the century. Hallmark cards are actually written in the head office in Kansas but cards are manufactured in Toronto for all of Canada and parts of the U.S. The company has 900 artists who design the cards and some of them write the sayings and poems found inside.
The companies are now gearing up for the next big holiday, St. Patrick's Day and the third-largest selling season, Easter.