Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, relationships and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate filled with mysterious and concerningly foul preserves.
There is much to admire about a holiday dedicated to honoring one’s chosen family. Love that a person does not coerce or demand, but earns through
There is no way to adequately praise such a significant relationship. Hence, it is a weak and tired argument that Valentine’s Day puts undue financial stress on a couple; a romance cannot be held together by roses, as much as the “Bachelor” franchise may persuade their audience to believe so.
The true issue with the holiday is not the expectation of a fancy dinner or the cost of a gold necklace, but rather, its dark and morbid origins.
Valentine’s Day, named for the Christian martyr Valentine, boasts many origin stories. Some say that Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer and subsequently fell madly in love with her, signing a final farewell letter, “Your Valentine.” If not that, then he performed weddings for Christians prohibited from marrying under Roman law.
The identity of the true muse for the holiday remains a mystery, as there were multiple Christian martyrs named Valentine. However, Valentine’s story truly became affiliated with love in 14th and 15th-century Europe during courtships in early spring. By the 18th century, lovebirds presented sweets and flowers as a token of admiration, just as they do today in the 21st century.
Unfortunately, that is just one side of the legend of Valentine’s Day. The whole truth is far less attractive than forbidden love affairs or young couples strolling down cobblestone roads hand in hand.
It may even be less appealing than a man selecting his bride from a group of women chosen by television executives, which is quite unattractive to start.
In fact, the origins of Valentine’s Day are very scarcely concerned with romance.
Historians speculate that Lupercalia, the pastoral festival of Ancient Rome, is the ancient origin of the Christian celebration of Saint Valentine. The annual festival occurred between February 13th and 15th to purify Rome and promote health and fertility.
Lupercalia, led by priests called Luperci who were in the cult of the Roman god Faunus, was local to Rome. Faunus, a nature deity known as the god of forests and fields and the supervisor of cattle fertility, led a celebration not of love but of purification and fertility. The festival began at the Lupercal altar with one of the Luperci sacrificing a goat and a dog and then inviting two other Luperci to the altar to anoint their foreheads with the blood from the sacrificial knife.
Then, the Luperci would wipe the blood from their faces using wool dipped in milk. The ritual required that they laugh after the ritualistic cleansing. Just as one cannot purchase love, one cannot gain health by murdering livestock.
At this point, the Luperci indulged in a sacrificial feast that would carry on after Christians adopted the pagan holiday.
However, the Christian adaptation did not maintain the post-dinner activity of Luperci cutting cords from the skin of the sacrificed animals and striking nude women running counterclockwise around the Palatine Hill with the cords to secure their fertility.
For all those concerned about the animal skin strips, known as februa, they were the basis for the name of the month of February. Perhaps further explanation as to why this is not particularly romantic is unnecessary; however, further explanation of how this festival evolved into romance is necessary.
Some historians suggest no link between the festival and holiday, while others theorize that other similar celebrations replaced Lupercalia, celebrations that bore more resemblance to the modern Valentine’s Day.
Whatever the case, few forces are worse than corporate greed and holidays invented to sell cards. But, the true horrors of Valentine’s Day lie deep within its history, not upon its glossy red surface.
So, as the “Bachelor” franchise grows and wallets shrink this month, recall that it is not the fault of chocolate companies and flower gardeners; it is the fault of those who created a celebration so twisted that not even the most conniving jewelers could dream of it.
After all, there was more than one Christian martyr named Valentine, and there is only one Lupercalia.