The first handmade Valentine's Day cards in the 1800s weren't intended only for lovers. They also celebrated affection between friends and relatives.
Esther Howland, one of the pioneers of the greeting card industry in the US, was charmed by an ornate English Valentine she received from a friend. So she began a business of importing lace and floral decorations from England and turned them into lacy V-Day cards.
Howland advertised in the Worcester, Massachusetts newspaper, The Daily Spy, in 1850, and her business grew so quickly that she had to enlist friends in an assembly-line operation to meet the demand. Her sales are reported to have exceeded $100,000, a handy sum at the time for a female entrepreneur.
On February 14th, people in Finland celebrate Ystävänpäivä, which is translated as Friend's Day. In Mexico, it is called the Día del amor y la amistad, the day of love and friendship. Admittedly, the day has been over-commercialized in the US but it still remains a fitting day to express love and appreciation, in whatever way we choose, to the important people in our lives---which, of course, includes our friends.
With love to my husband, son, and my dear friends who sustain me
In memory to my Dad who died on Valentine's Day, 2006
(This is an update of a similar post on this blog from February 2008).