Some Old-School Superstitions for Valentine’s Day

Valentines? Why, I never get a valentine,” said a teenage debutante to a Tribune society reporter in 1931.1 “Young men don’t even know that Feb. 14th is Valentine’s Day anymore.”2 Her counterpart in 1922 agreed. The practice of sending and receiving valentines, whether gifts or cards, was considered pointless, quaint, and unnecessary for such Bright Young Things, especially in the face of “such agencies as the telephone and automobiles.”3

Yet while teens and twenty-somethings were openly snubbing the holiday, many more were embracing it, particularly in Chicago. In 1929, an estimated $250,000 to $500,000 was spent on Valentine’s Day gifts in the city, with around one million cards sent by the mail.4 Kids “sat with bated breath” all school day, ready to pounce on their “elaborately decorated box” full of classroom valentines.5 And throughout the 1920s and 1930s, places like the Art Institute and the Chicago Historical Society featured exhibits of early valentines, mostly from the Victorian age—exhibits which were well attended by both young and old alike.

Superstitions from “ye olden times” (mostly rural England) abounded during Valentine’s Day in the Roaring Twenties as well, and many pieces of “ancient lore” were repeated in magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals of the day, adding a touch of magical fun to the holiday.

In that spirit, here are some fun old-time Valentine’s Day superstitions for you, dear readers, on this lovely day. 🙂 ❤

~*~

Behold, how e'er the Birds of Air Bow to the Power of Love, Divine

During the Middle Ages, birds were said to mate on St. Valentine’s Day. Source: Cardcow.com

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Birds of Love:

“If a maid walks abroad in the morning of St. Valentine’s day, she may decide her future husband’s position by the aid of…[the] birds…she sees,” wrote Doris Blake for the Tribune.6 If she spies…

…a blackbird, she will marry a clergyman.

…a [robin] redbreast or a bunting, she will marry a sailor.

…a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire.

…a “yellowbird” (probably a yellow warbler), she will marry a rich man.

…a sparrow, she will find “love in a cottage.”

…a bluebird, she will marry a poor man.

…a crossbill, she will have a quarrelsome husband.

…a wryneck, she will never marry.

…a flock of doves, then she will be lucky all year.7

~*~

Warding Off “Tainted” Love:

If a woman wishes to ward off evil in love, she should wear a yellow crocus on St. Valentine’s Day, for it is “the saint’s especial flower” and will protect her all year.8

Crocus-Beautiful Ever

Another CardCow.com

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Count The Animals:

If a girl looks out into the street at first light on Valentine’s Day morning, “the number of animals she sees will tell her just how many years it will be before she marries.”9

A couple with Pig

This card echoes an old English folk verse about Valentine’s Day. Source: CardCow.com

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Never Sign:

Never sign a valentine, for it will bring you bad luck and “will not be successful” in winning your sweetheart! 10

Cupid Carrying a Heart

What a cute postman! CardCow.com

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A Valentine Spell:

If you receive an unsigned valentine today and you wish it came from a certain special someone, you can write their name down on a slip of paper, along with your own, and then tuck it under your pillow. Just before you fall asleep, recite the following verse:

“If he who sent this Valentine,

Is named above with mine;

I pray, good saint, that by this line,

I may his name divine.”11

gorgeous 1910s val card 40 bucks

This beautiful early 1900s card is on sale at CardCow right now for around $40!

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Dreaming of You:

If you want to dream of the person you’re destined to marry, on the eve of St. Valentine’s day take 5 bay leaves and pin them to your pillow. Attach one to each corner and the last in the middle, then go to sleep. Whoever you dream of that night, you will marry them within the coming year.12

A St., Valentine Pipe Dream

Trippy, eh? Wonder what’s in that pipe… 😉 From CardCow.com

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Eggs for Love:

If you want to make sure that the person you dreamt of on St. Valentine’s day will actually marry you before the year is over, boil an egg before bedtime, remove the yolk, fill the ensuing hole with salt, and then eat it, shell and all—and don’t speak a word until morning. This odd superstition dates back to 1756.13

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Don’t Peep:

If you expect to be visited by your true love on Valentine’s Day, don’t open your eyes until they show up. If you see someone other than your sweetheart, it might mean you’ll lose their love!14

gute girl eyes val.jpg

Another cutie from CardCow.com

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Fate of Clay:

Try this small fortune-telling game for Valentine’s day: write your friend’s names on pieces of paper, then roll them up, coat them with clay, and throw them into a dish of water: the first name that floats to the top will be the person you marry.15

Valentine Greetings

Valentine greetings for a friend. From CardCow.com

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Blessed Union:

Marrying on Valentine’s day will bring “happiness and success” to the lucky couple.16

Cupid in Chains

Guess that’s one way to ensure your marriage… 😉 From CardCow.com

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Spot Your Beloved:

The “first unmarried person of the other sex whom you see” on the morning of St. Valentine’s Day is “destined” to be your wife or husband by the end of the year.17

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Gifts of Love:

When a man and a women meet on St. Valentine’s Day, whoever says “Good morrow, ’tis St. Valentine’s Day” first wins a present from the other person. This practice dates back to Shakespeare’s time. Even this guy wrote about it.18

boy gift girl val.jpg

A boy brings a girl a gift. CardCow.com!

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❤ ~ What about you, dear readers? ~ ❤

Has anyone ever told you an old  Valentine’s Day superstition? Did you recognize any of the ones here? Or is there anything special you do on Valentine’s Day to bring luck in love? Feel free to share in the Comments below! 🙂

~*~


Works Cited:
1. Cass, Judith. “Young Society Forgets about Valentine’s Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 14, 1933. https://search.proquest.com/docview/181388520?accountid=3688
2. Ibid.
3. Mme, X. “NEWS OF CHICAGO SOCIETY.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 12, 1922. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174936623?accountid=3688
4. “WILL YOU BE MY VALENTINE? CITY HEARS OLD QUERY.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 15, 1929. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180987410?accountid=3688
5. Ibid.
6. Blake, Doris. “VALENTINE LORE.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 13, 1921. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174710416?accountid=3688
7. Ibid.
8. “A Friend in Need Sally Joy Brown.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 11, 1920. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174576570?accountid=3688
9. Blake, Doris. “VALENTINE LORE.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 13, 1921. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174710416?accountid=3688
10. Ibid.
11. De Young, Ruth. “ST. VALENTINE’S DAY FESTIVITIES OF ROMAN ORIGIN.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 13, 1931. https://search.proquest.com/docview/181161455?accountid=3688
12. Cielo, Astra, 1861-1957. Signs, Omens And Superstitions. New York: G. Sully & company, 1918. See it here at HathiTrust on Page 37.
13. McSpadden, J. Walker 1874-1960. The Book of Holidays. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell company, 1917. See it here at HathiTrust on Page 47
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Devereux, G. R. M. The Lover’s Dictionary Containing a Vast Amount of Information of Interest to Those In Love … London: Pearson, 1903. See it here at Hathitrust on Page 112.
18. Walsh, William Shepard, 1854-1919. Curiosities of Popular Customs And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, And Miscellaneous Antiquities. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1925. See it here at Hathitrust on Page 956.
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About lupachi1927

My name's Megan, and I'm a writer with an interest in history. While I might not be a real historian, I'm a very thorough researcher. This blog is my place to post about all the interesting historical tidbits I find that can't use in the novel I'm working on, which takes place in Chicago in 1927. If you're looking for research help, writing feedback, or just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line! :)
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