A brief history of Valentine’s Day - might be darker than you thought.
Have you ever thought about the origins of this romantic, love-felt, "Hallmark Holiday" and why we continue to celebrate it? I’m a person who always asks “why?” and then needs to research answers. It’s a blessing and a curse. But if you also have fallen curious about Feb 14th, let me fill you in on my recent discovery about Valentine’s Day:
The most common, simplified belief is that we celebrate our love because of some Saint Valentine dude. But who is this saint and what did he do? Some believe he secretly married men and women to prevent the men from being called to war. Some believe he cured a woman from blindness, became too friendly with her and was jailed by her father. He would then sign his love letters to her "from your Valentine". There are theories that these were two different saints, or possibly the same man.
Feast of Lupercalia
But here’s something neat that I recently learned, and most people do not know. This celebration was also based on the feast of Lupercalia, a pagan spring-time sacrificial festival. And, it was pretty bloody! Lupercalia was celebrated in mid-February back in the ancient Roman times where a goat and a dog would be sacrificed by Roman priests within a sacred cave. The goat represented fertility and the dog represented purification. The hides would be stripped of these animals, dipped in the sacrificial blood, and bachelors would then walk the streets (drunk and naked) where available women would line up in hopes to be hit by these hides. There is theory that this is also where the term "getting hit on" came from. Later in the celebration, men and women would be paired up by lottery. Some would remain together only until the end of the festival, and some would go on to later marry.
In either case, it is believed that Saint Valentine was martyred on Feb 14th and his death continued to be celebrated in conjunction with the old Lupercalia festival to suppress or forget the old pagan rituals of the bloody sacrifices and whippings – but it remains carried on as a day of love and fertility.
It’s been cited that Shakespeare was the one to further romanticize it in his writings and bring it to the New World where tokens of love were created by hand, on this day, in the form of paper cards. In modern day 1913, Hallmark caught wind of this act of love and commercialized it when they began mass producing Valentine’s Day cards. Then it just snowballed from there with chocolates, flowers, and sex toys!
Sooo, for the sake of original tradition, I hope you are hit on this Valentine’s Day!