Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate romance and love. Filled with red hearts and lots of chocolate, our social media pages on Valentine’s day will be on the extreme level of how much people suddenly love each other…
But the origins of this festival of candy and cupids are actually a lot more dark, bloody — and a bit muddled. Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men hit on women by, well, hitting them. I mean THOSE ROMANS WERE CRAZY Yo.
From the 13th of February until the 15th, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. This was an ancient pagan festival held each year.
The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, after which two of the Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood was wiped off with wool dipped in milk; the ritual required that the two young men laugh. Then they proceeded in whipping women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.
Lupercalia was a bloody, violent, and sexually charged celebration for sure, the Roman romantics were drunk and mainly they were naked. They wanted what they wanted. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, as they believed this would make them fertile.
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery: In some parts of Rome, they would take the whole fertility ritual a bit further. Eligible young women hoping to get pregnant would write their names on clay tablets and place the tablets in a jar. Then the men would draw a name at random. Two completely random strangers would be hooked up and be together for the rest of the festival.
Some of the details on this are a bit vague and inconsistent, but it seems like these two weren’t just going on a blind date. The man was there to make the woman’s dream of having a baby a reality. Exactly how long they stuck together seems to vary. Some say they just spent the festival together. But according to others, those two would be sexual partners for the next year.
The last Lupercalia was held at the end of the fifth century. By then, Christianity had taken over Rome, and Lupercalia was one of the few Roman holidays that was still being celebrated. Pope Gelasius ended it, though, declaring that it was a pagan ritual full of blood sacrifice that glorified sex.
Most of this ritual had been stopped anyway. Although we don’t know all the details of how it was celebrated in the fifth century, we do know that the Pope challenged the Romans who complained to actually do that “running around naked” part—and none were willing to do it.
The Romans weren’t too happy about losing a festival, though, so a new festival came into existence: St. Valentine’s Day. Well, technically, the Pope replaced Lupercalia with the slightly less popular “Feast of the Purification of The Blessed Virgin Mary,” but eventually, it became Valentine’s Day.
The holiday got the name St. Valentine’s Day because people named Valentine had a strange habit of dying on February 14. Two separate Valentines had already died on that date, so they created St. Valentine’s Day—a day to remember a saint who got beheaded.
Over the next 1,500 years, some things changed. Instead of putting their names in jars, women got cards. Instead of hitting women with girdles, men gave them flowers. But the holiday we celebrate today got its start here.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone… I think.
Stay Curious! Stay Blessed!
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