If you are celebrating this day with a red dress, high heels, full glam and with a man by your side holding a bouquet of flowers, good for you, but do you truly know what you’re celebrating? This kissy faced holiday is a long way from the origins and traditions in which it was founded.
Let’s start where so much of Catholic history starts… ancient Rome. From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. This is where the men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then flogged women with the hides of the animals they had just slaughtered. Gives the phrase ‘sweet and tender love” a whole new meaning.
The men lavished in the festivities and the roman romantics were drunken, loud and often naked. Young women would actually line up to be beat by the men as they believed this would make them fertile. The celebration even included a matchmaking type of lottery where men would draw the names of women from a jar and they would then be matched for the remainder of the festival, or longer if the man felt the “need”.
Emperor Claudius II executed two men, both named Valentine, on Feb. 14 in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day. In the 5th century Pope Gelasius I combined St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia, an ancient annual festival observed in the city of Rome from the 13th to the 15th of February to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility, to expel the pagan rituals.
Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin's Day. Galatin meant "lover of women." That was likely confused with St. Valentine's Day at some point, due to them sounding so much alike. As time went on, humans became more civilized and the barbarck rituals grew sweeter. Even Chaucer and Shakespeare started to romanticize the day in their work, making the popularity for the day grow throughout Europe. Handmade paper valentines became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages.
Eventually, the tradition made its way to America and the industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. In 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since. This is why so many people, mostly singles much like myself, dismiss the romance and smooches the masses revel in by calling it a “Hallmark Holiday”. Today, the holiday is big business. Valentine's Day sales reached $17.6 billion in 2010 and this year's sales are expected to surpass $25 billion dollars.
So there you have it folks. The celebration of Valentine's Day goes on across the world and through time, in varied ways. Many will break the bank buying jewelry and flowers for their beloved. Others will celebrate in a SAD (Single Awareness Day) way, dining alone and stuffing their face holes with self-gifted chocolates. A few may even be spending this day the same way the early Romans did. But let's try not to think about it.
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