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Valentine's Day Season

“Why do our sweet sentimental young misses 
In love letters make little crosses for kisses?”

~ Unknown author, 1893

Before emoticons and emoji's, there were the simpler X's and O's to symbolize kisses and hugs in correspondence. The 'X' symbol has a long history of use starting as a the letter taw in early Hebrew and chi in Greek. First associated with Christianity to represent faith and fidelity of Christ, the X became the signature of choice in the Middle Ages, a time when few people could write, and documents were sealed with an X embossed in wax or lead. At the same time, letters and books, as well as oaths of political and economic fealty between kings and their vassals, were “sealed with a kiss.” Evolving over time from meaning a blessing to that of a romantic kiss or heartfelt emotion, the X is now a universal sign of affection especially associated with Valentine's Day. Scholars still debate the more recent origin of the 'O' to indicate a hug. ❤️XOXO ❤️

Hearts, flowers, cupids, X's and O's, the origins of these Valentine's Day symbols go back much further than might be supposed. 


The common custom of placing "X" on envelopes, notes and at the bottom of letters to mean kisses dates back to the Middle Ages, when a Christian cross was drawn on documents or letters to mean sincerity, faith, and honesty. A kiss was then placed upon the cross, by the signer as a display of their sworn oath. It was also used in early Christian history as much of a display of the same.

Since most of the common people could not read or write, the 'X' was placed on documents, and a kiss was placed over it as a show of their sincerity. The Chi Rho, often represented with the letter 'X', was also used as a holy symbol throughout Christian history as it represented the Greek word for Christ. This gave rise to the practice of using the letter 'X', which was then kissed in this tradition of displaying a sacred oath.

There is speculation on the Internet from at least one original source that the 'O' is of North American descent: when arriving in the United States, Jewish immigrants, most of whose first language was Yiddish, would use an 'O' to sign documents, thus not using the sign of the cross, and shop keepers would often use an 'O' when signing documents, in place of an 'X'.

Designed by Carol A.L. Martin, this valentine tartan's title "says it all."


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