There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. Charles M. Schulz
The Surprising History of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is often considered one of the most over-hyped and commercialized holidays of the year—a day on which couples exchange chocolates, flowers, and sentimental declarations of their affection for one another. But did you know that the origins of Valentine’s Day are surprisingly sordid?
Our modern conception of Valentine’s Day has both Christian and pagan roots. For example, the Catholic Church recognizes three different St. Valentines, who were all martyred. The most famous of these saints was reportedly a priest in Rome during the third century. The emperor at the time banned young men from getting married after declaring that single men made better soldiers. Believing that this decree was unjust, Valentine secretly performed weddings for young couples—and ultimately paid for his defiance with his life when the emperor learned of his actions and ordered his execution.
Another possible origin for Valentine’s Day was Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival celebrated by the ancient Romans on February 15. During the festival, an order of Roman priests called the Luperci would wander the city, gently swatting young women with a goat’s hide. Surprisingly, the women welcomed this contact as it was believed that the goat hides would make them more fertile in the coming year! Later in the day, the women would place their names in a large urn, and the bachelors of the city would each draw a name and be romantically paired with that woman for the remainder of the year.
In the fifth century A.D., Pope Gelasius outlawed Lupercalia, deeming it antithetical to Christianity, and officially declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was widely believed that birds’ mating season began on February 14, which further linked the concept of romance to Valentine’s Day. In the centuries that followed, the popularity of Valentine’s Day quickly grew, and it is now widely celebrated as a secular romantic holiday throughout the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Mexico, Australia, and France.