This Valentine’s Day, you may find yourself sharing a romantic dinner with your loved one. The moon and stars gazing upon you both (or maybe not if you live in England); it is a perfect romantic setting any other day of the week, but this is February 14th. Both men and women try harder to be extra sentimental on Valentine’s Day.
The ancient Romans would completely disapprove of this method of celebration. After all, you must give thanks to the pagan Romans for giving us the real origins of Valentine’s Day.
Do you know how they celebrated this “romance” holiday? Close your eyes and picture naked Roman men chasing after women – and whipping them with raw goat and dog skins. From February 13 – 15, the Romans celebrated Valentine’s Day in this fashion during the feast of Lupercalia – also known as the Wolf Festival.
According to tradition, the festival turned into a fertility rite celebration because of a female wolf who allowed Roman twins, Romulus and Remus, to suck on her nipples. The female wolf’s brothers officiated the festival asking for animal sacrifices of two goats and a dog. Why the whipping? The women believed getting whipped promoted fertility.
We must give Roman Emperor Claudius II credit for unwittingly giving us the name: Valentine’s Day. He killed two guys named Valentine on February 14 of different years in the 3rd century. The Catholic Church commemorated their death by naming the celebration Valentine’s Day.
Enter Pope Gelasius I
In A.D. 496, Pope Gelasius I got fed up with the Roman’s sinful festival and banned it altogether. However, he did not completely ban it. He merely combined the Catholic version of St. Valentine’s Day with the Roman’s Lupercalia. The bloody sacrifices stopped, but the whole fertility notion continued.
Apart from legend, the first affiliation between romance and February 14th goes back to Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. Valentine’s Day was a hit throughout Great Britain and Europe. The holiday ultimately hit American soil, and thanks to Hallmark Cards in 1913, Valentine’s Day has skyrocketed in the money making department.
So there you have it. The hellish beginnings of Valentine’s Day in a nutshell.