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Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Valentine’s Day Started Off Murdery, Who Knew?

Valentine's Day, Lupercalia, Roman festival, love celebration, commercialization, consumerism, modern traditions, singles awareness, self-gifting, romantic relationships

Ah, Valentine’s Day, the holiday that stirs up a cocktail of emotions. Whether you’re head over heels in love or plotting the demise of Cupid, one thing’s for sure: this day has a history that’s older than Grandma’s fruitcake recipe. While we now associate Valentine’s Day with stolen kisses, heart-shaped trinkets, and fighting for a reservation at the fanciest restaurant in town, its origins are anything but a sappy rom-com.

The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day

The Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia from Feb. 13 to 15. During this festival, men would sacrifice a goat and a dog, and then use the hides of these animals to whip women. It was believed that this act would make the women fertile. Additionally, there was a matchmaking lottery where young men would draw the names of women from a jar, and they would be paired up for the duration of the festival. This festival eventually evolved into our modern-day Valentine’s Day.

In the third century, Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on Feb. 14 in different years. The Catholic Church later honored their martyrdom by celebrating St. Valentine’s Day on this date.

Over time, the holiday underwent changes and adaptations. In the fifth century, Pope Gelasius I combined St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia as an attempt to remove the pagan rituals associated with the festival. However, the resulting celebration became more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been.

Valentine’s Day became further intertwined with love and romance due to the influence of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. Their literary works romanticized the holiday, helping it gain popularity throughout Europe. The tradition of exchanging handmade paper Valentine’s cards emerged in the Middle Ages.

Galatin’s Day – Lover of Women

The Norman holiday Galatin’s Day, meaning “lover of women”, also became linguistically confused with St. Valentine’s Day over the centuries. The similar sounding names likely contributed to the day becoming focused on love and courtship.

When Valentine’s Day made its way to America in the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Factory-made Valentine’s cards replaced handmade ones. In 1913, Hallmark Cards began mass producing affordable Valentines, amplifying their commercial appeal.

The Evolution of Valentine’s Day

In modern times, Valentine’s Day has become a significant commercial event. However, the commercialization of the holiday has caused some people to feel disillusioned with its true meaning.

Nevertheless, the celebration of Valentine’s Day continues in various ways. Many individuals go all out by purchasing expensive jewellery and flowers for their loved ones. Others, who are single, may approach the day with a different perspective, engaging in activities that embrace their independence, like dining alone or indulging in self-gifted chocolates. It can be a time for individuals to find their own sense of contentment with singlehood in a society that often emphasizes the importance of being in a romantic relationship.

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