Today, Valentine’s Day is associated with romance, chocolate, flowers and other declarations of love, but the origin of the holiday isn’t as romantic as we might think.
Even before the patron saint of lovers, Saint Valentine’s special day, the ancient Roman calendar included a mid-February holiday celebrating fertility called Lupercalia, and it is believed to have included a ritual in which men and women were paired off by choosing names from a jar. Men sacrificing a goat and a dog followed by the women being whipped with the hides of the animals the men had slain (how romantic).
The blurred history of this day of lovers that you might be familiar is the secret marriages that were performed by Saint Valentine (did you know this guy is also the patron saint of epilepsy and beekeepers?). Despite Emperor Claudius II outlawing the practice of marriage for his soldiers -as he believed his army would be victorious in battle when unencumbered by thoughts of loved ones and family – Valentine would bring young lovers together in matrimony. When the couples were discovered, they were thrown in jail and the still beating hearts of the men were cut form their chest and delivered to their wives – makes you think twice about sending your significant other a heart shaped box of chocolate doesn’t it?
As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter with Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticising it in their work. Gaining popularity with the masses through Great Britain and wider parts of Europe and finally to the new world where the industrial revolution took the once sweet hand-made cards exchanged on Valentine’s Day and turned the holiday on its head with Hallmark cards taking their place and changing the day forever.
The truth about Valentine’s Day history isn’t without its skeletons – from tearing out the hearts of roman soldiers to sacrificial rituals and everything in between, this Hallmarked holiday is about more than being over charged by florists, restaurants and jewelers. And while romcoms like