The Dark History of Valentine’s Day

The Dark History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Filled with roses, chocolate, and hearts. Little do people know, the origins are quite gruesome, despite being a tad inconclusive. One thing that is certain about the holiday of love is it came from ancient Rome and is in place to celebrate St. Valentine from the Catholic Church. However,

Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Filled with roses, chocolate, and hearts. Little do people know, the origins are quite gruesome, despite being a tad inconclusive. One thing that is certain about the holiday of love is it came from ancient Rome and is in place to celebrate St. Valentine from the Catholic Church. However, the history behind the Valentine’s Day traditions vary from source to source.

A story that most people believe to be true is that the Catholic Church took the festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated in mid-February, and “Christianized” it in order to celebrate St. Valentine. In this festival, several priests, and other men, made up an order referred to as Luperci. The Luperci members would sacrifice a goat for fertility, and a dog for purification. These men would then take strips of skin from the slain animals and would cover them in the sacrificial blood. They would then softly slap women with the blood-covered skin because they believed it would make the women more fertile. Some women would literally stand in lines and wait for this. There was also a part of the festival where the names of these women would go in an urn, and the men would reach in and pull a name out. They would spend the rest of the festival with their picks and would often times stay with them for the remainder of the year, which typically led to marriage. It was called Valentine’s Day because St. Valentine was known as being very romantic and loyal.

The Catholic Church acknowledges at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, and all of whom were martyred. The Valentine that is honored on Valentine’s Day was killed for trying to keep love going, at least that is one of the legends. This story begins with Valentine serving as a priest during the third century in Rome. The emperor at the time, Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers than men with families, and therefore, banned young men from marrying. Valentine realized the violation in this law and continued to perform marriages for young couples behind the Emperor’s back. When Valentine’s actions were realized, Claudius ordered that he be executed. The day he was executed is believed to be February 14, hence the reason Valentine’s Day is on that day. He was eventually martyred by the Catholic Church and made a Saint.

The history of exchanging valentines can also be traced back to this event. It was believed that Valentine was in jail for a short time before his execution. The legends says that he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, who visited him in prison. Before his execution he sent a letter to this woman and signed it, “From Your Valentine” – the expression still used to this day. Another dark tale of the first valentine has been physically recorded. This valentine was a poem written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans, Charles, to his wife. At the time he sent the poem he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after he had been captured at the Battle of Agincourt, a battle in which the French lost devastatingly to the English and thousands were killed and captured.

Today this holiday is known for being full of love and romance, not for the tragedies that are believed to have happened to create this holiday. So when one begins to complain about the gifts his/her lover gives them, hopefully he/she will remember it could always be worse, like getting-slapped-in-the-face-with-blood-covered-animal-skin worse.

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