Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Book Reviews and Writing Tips

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Dark Beginnings of Valentines Day

Lupercalia by betterPtopaganda

I ran across some interesting pieces about the origin of this holiday.  I thought I’d share this from an NPR article from 2011.

Valentines Day, like so many holidays we celebrate, began as a pagan feast, this particular holiday the Roman feast of Lupercalia.  This celebration was held between the thirteenth and fifteenth of February every year.

The Roman men, drunk and naked, would kill a goat or dog and then whip the women with the hides thinking this would increase fertility.  Believe it or not, the women would line up to be whipped by the men.  Hmmm…maybe this was a highlight back in the day.  I imagine regular life was mundane and villagers looked forward to all the festivals.

This feast also included a lottery where young men would draw women’s names out of a jar.  The couples would be matched up for the duration of the festival, or longer if it was a good match.

Later on, in the third century, and in two different years, Emperor Claudius II executed two men on February fourteenth, both named Valentine.  I’m not sure what these men did to lead to this kind of punishment, but the Catholic Church honored these martyrs by celebrating St. Valentine’s Day. 

In the fifth century, things were changed again when Pope Gelasius I combined Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia in order to abolish the pagan celebration.  The festival remained a drunken revelry, only now the Christians wore clothes.  It was still a day of fertility and love.

The holiday grew sweeter as the years went by with writers romancing it in their work.  In the middle ages the first Valentine’s Day cards appeared.  Cards were handmade until the tradition made its way to the New World where factory-made cards were generated in the nineteenth century.

Today this holiday, like most of them we celebrate, is big business with all sorts of things appearing in the stores way before the actual holiday.  In 2012 more than $18 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day purchases.  Today we buy jewelry, flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals and other trinkets for our beloved on this day of love.  Even single people buy themselves gifts.

It makes one wonder if anyone still celebrates as the old Romans did.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?  Is it a holiday you celebrate?

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