The Grim History of Valentine’s Day

Colleen Brownley , Co-Editor

The holiday of sweet nothings and gifts of candy has a rather sour history. This day is believed to have been originally celebrated by the ancient Romans. From the dates of February 13th to the 15th they held a festival. 

Lupercalia, the name of the celebration, was performed because the Romans believed that it would boost women’s fertility and to most likely honor a few of their respective deities. Luperci, a few select priests, would oversee the festival, which began with a sacrifice of a few goats and a dog. 

After the ritualistic killings of the creatures were completed, two Luperci would journey to the altar and have the blood of the animals placed on their forehead, then promptly wiped off with a piece of wool soaked in milk. While this was occurring, they were required to laugh. 

The Luperci would then cut bands from the animal’s bodies and run around whipping women with it. A strike of the band was said to give a woman ample fertility. Women would line up in droves to be beaten by the Luperci. 

It is unclear which martyr the holiday is named after, but eventually the Christians attempted to take over the holiday to promote their religion and encourage Pagans to convert. They used the celebration as a day of feasting. 

However, now the holiday is less religious focused and more about the spirit of love itself. This romantic tone of Valentine’s day originates from the belief that birds choose their mates on February 14th. 

During the time of great writers such as Shakespeare couples recited poetry and prose to each other on this day to express their affection for one another. Which is a far cry from the now cliche gifts of cheap teddy bears and tacky heart shaped boxes of chocolates. 

Valentine’s day now is a lot different than it’s history. There are no ritualistic sacrifices followed by brutal whippings of women. There’s no religious feasts or couples shouting original poetry at each other from terraces and streets. Now the day is simply about one thing, love.