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History of Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2017

On February 14th we over indulge those we love with chocolate, cards, and remarks steeped in romance. It’s not too surprising that most people have no clue what Valentine’s day originates from.

The beginnings of this holiday comes from the Romans. Every February from 13 to 15 they celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. Pagans used this time to beg the Gods for fertility within their sheep and cattle. This annual hoo-rah was also a health festival, which historians believe was celebrated at least as far back as 44 BCE.

This year on February 14, 2017 many people will go on lavish dates. Some of us college students will take our weekly shower and maybe try to smell extra nice for our ‘netflix and chill’ date. Heck- maybe some boys will spend an extra few bucks, and get the more expensive wine.

If we could hop in a time machine and sneak back to the era of the Roman empire, it would be an entirely different scene. In the absence of Hersey kisses and Hallmark cards we would see something like this: shepherds celebrating, noble youths and magistrates running naked, animal sacrifices, wearing goat skins, hitting women in shaggy thongs to increase pregnancy. Priests lead sacrifices of goats and puppies, animals who were thought to have a “strong sexual instinct.” Afterwards, a feast would occur with lots of wine flowing (similar to today’s tradition).

When everyone was fat and happy, the men would shed their clothes, drape the goat skins from the earlier sacrifice on their naked bodies, and run around the city striking naked women.

In the fifth century, Pope Gelasius established this as a Christian celebration and declared it would be honored on February 14 – a feast in which St. Valentine would be the patron saint. Valentine was actually rather common since it translated from Latin meaning “strong or powerful.”

Whatever the motivations, Gelasius’ new feast didn’t really catch on and no such holiday was commonly celebrated in the middle of February for the next thousand years or so, until the 14th century.

Eventually, author Geoffrey Chaucer became illustrated the first explicit Valentine’s Day / love connection ever written. His famous line: “For this was Saint Valentine’s day, when every bird of every kind that men can imagine comes to this place to choose his mate.”

Whatever your plans this Valentine’s day, reflect on the origins of the holiday. And be grateful you’re not captive in the Roman empire.

Haley Thompson
Contributing Writer

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