The History of Valentine’s Day

By Josie Barton

Valentine’s Day, a popular holiday known for love, chocolate, and flowers, carries a dark history behind it. The holiday began with Ancient Romans and their ghastly traditions on February 14th.

From February 13th through the 15th, Romans celebrated Lupercalia, an ancient tradition to “avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.”

The Pagan festival included the sacrifice of a goat and a dog. The men would then whip the women with the sacrificed animal hides. Unfortunately, the women believed that this painful process would somehow make them fertile. The festival also included a matchmaking lottery, where a man and woman were “coupled up” for the night.

The name “Valentine’s Day” originates from the executions of two men, both named Valentine. Emperor Claudius II performed the execution on February 14th of different years in the third century A.D. The deaths were then honored by the Catholic Church, beginning the holiday.

Pope Gelasius I, the Bishop of Rome from A.D. 492 until 496, combined St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia, creating the tradition of Valentine’s Day every February 14th.

In the Middle Ages, English poets, Chaucer and Shakespeare, romanticized Valentine’s Day. Popularity of the holiday grew throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards became a common token of the day.

During the Industrial Revolution, factory-made cards grew in popularity. Hallmark, a large corporation known for its cheesy Valentine’s Cards, became a top seller. In the New World, Valentine’s Day serves as a means for chocolate and flower companies to profit.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day with a positive attitude or question the mere meaning of love, you can now inform others of a gory tradition full of suffering and torture that we now correlate with love and happiness.

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