Kings Brighton student shares the truth about Valentine's Day!
February. The month of love. Or if you live in America, it is Black History Month. However, chocolates, roses and beautiful heart-shaped doilies generally are an easier sell than the remembrance of the struggle for freedom of an entire race from systemic oppression so lets stick with the month of love. If you’re guilty of the awful crime of not being in a relationship or at least having a significant other, then February 14th is Single Awareness Day! The pressure is on to brave a smile when asked by your coupled-up friends what your plans are as though it is not just another day of the year.
But behind all the romance and the big business for card, flower, and chocolate companies, you’re left with just a day like any other. However unlike any of the other holidays like Christmas Day or Guy Fawkes Night, the origin story of Valentine’s Day isn’t one that is well known or publicised. So how did the ‘Day of Love’ really come about?
It all started with naked Romans
Yup, that’s right. Valentine’s Day didn’t start out sweet or sappy with cards or chocolates. It started with a bunch of drunken, nude Romans. Every year, the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia from Feb. 13-15. This pagan fertility festival celebrated an ancient god who protected the people from wolves. At the beginning of the celebration, the men would sacrifice a goat and a dog, then whip the women with the hides of those animals.
During this naked, drunken party, the town's young women would get in line and wait for the men to hit them. Yeah. They wanted to be hit because they believed it would make them fertile.
After being whipped with dead animals (ew, scary!), the ladies then had a chance to be included in a matchmaking lottery. The men drew names and then were "coupled" with that woman for the night.
Your average love story, no?
So who is Valentine and how is he related to Feb. 14th??
Chill, I’m getting there.
It's hard to go from drunkenly whipping women with animal hides to canonising saints, but Valentine's Day did.
In the third century, Emperor Claudius II ordered for the death of two men on Feb. 14. Their names? Valentine and Valentine. They were executed in different years, but the Catholic Church later honoured them both as martyrs and named Feb. 14 St. Valentine's Day. Then in the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I decided to combine St. Valentine's Day with that crazy Lupercalia festival in an effort to get rid of the pagan tradition.
The OG love story you’ve all been waiting for…
So it turns out that in the 3rd century AD, Emperor Claudius II was dealing with a crumbling empire and had the genius idea to ban all marriages of young people because he believed single soldiers fought better than married ones. Father Valentine was not a fan of this idea and continued to perform marriages in secret. Once he was caught, he was imprisoned and later killed. So remember the Valentines that were killed on Feb. 14th? Yeah, he’s one of them and literally a Roman priest who became a martyr known for standing up for love. Finally something cute!
Our guy Shakespeare made it a lil’ sweeter.
We have Shakespeare to thank for transforming Valentine's Day into a day to celebrate romantic love. He and Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about the holiday as a day to celebrate romantic love, and their sweeter take on it started to become popular. Shockingly, none of the ladies minded ditching the naked party. Shakespeare also worked the holiday into his writing. In Hamlet, Ophelia says, "To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day/All in the morning betime/And I a maid at your window/To be your Valentine."
So there you have it. The origin story of February 14th as it is today. I’ll admit not your average history lesson but it is what it is. For all the singletons out there, you can use the weird origin story as a reason to stay away from all things Valentine-related.