History of a Holiday:Valentine’s Day

Every year it rolls around, February 14th we buy candy, cards and stuffed objects to ply our loved ones with.  Chocolates, suckers, mints and all things heart shaped, which are not really heart shaped by the way, hearts have chambers and ventricles and look totally different.  The Valentine’s day heart is really just a thinly veiled image of a nude person’s gender specific bits.  Male and female, upper and lower, all it takes is a wee bit of imagination and a 180 degree rotation.  The holiday itself has origin roots in the Roman empire, like most of the modern holidays do.

Originally celebrated on and around February 15th, Lupercalia was the Roman holiday we associate with the Feast of St.Valentine.   Men would sacrifice goats, cut them into little bits, dip the strips into the dead goat drippings and then bolt nude around the city and wallop women with the gore to promote fertility.  Modern medicine has since deemed bloody goat slaps less than effective as a fertility treatment, but in Ancient Rome, whacking your woman could end sterility and cause pregnancy.  Lupercalia also supposedly had a tradition where the eligible bachelors of the towns would draw slips of paper out of an urn with the name of one of the bachelorettes on it.  The two would be obligated by tradition to hook up, and often ended up marrying.

Valentine’s day of modern times comes from the legend of a Christian martyr.   In the year 270 AD, the Roman empire was falling apart at the seams.  Claudius II took the throne and tried to keep his empire together through a strong military.  One of his famous acts forbade soldiers from marrying, assuming that they would fight more efficiently if they were not linked to their homes because of families and spouses.  The legend of St.Valentine is that he declared Claudius to be a nimwit and continued marrying soldiers in secret.  When he was caught, he was imprisoned and, depending on the story, either healed the blind daughter of his jailer (with saintly healing powers, this is the Catholic story), helped the blind daughter (by being a nice guy, this is the Protestant story), or slept with the daughter (this is likely the honest truth).  When he met with Claudius, Valentine refused to give up his God to follow the Roman ones and was sentenced to death on the 14th of February.  The legend is that he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter and signed it “from your Valentine”, which could potentially be the origin of the card-giving epidemic that came about later.

The leap from Lupercalia’s sex and fertility holiday to Valentine’s martyrdom holiday came in the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared Lupercalia outdated and replaced it with the feast of St.Valentine.  It wasn’t until much later when the date was associated with love and all that.  In medieval France and England, it was believed that birds chose their mates on the 14th of February.  Chaucer linked the two together in a story and the idea of love on the 14th became more and more integral to the holiday.  Then you get to today, where a full 25% of the cards purchased in a given year are given out.

Hopefully y’all learned something new, something cool or something different, like how the holiday originated from a giant goat and sexual-lotto orgy festival.

Citations, got no clever one liner after the goat and lotto orgy one:

Dating in Rome must have been a lot Easier with Festivals like that:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day
http://voices.yahoo.com/origins-valentines-day-heart-symbol-849689.html
http://www.theholidayspot.com/valentine/history_of_valentine.htm
http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day
http://www.historyofholidays.com/history_of_valentines_day_main.html

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