The  History of Valentine’s Day

The History of Valentine’s Day

by Falyn Bonacore

As winter dissolves into spring, a romantic spirit invades our hearts as loving pastels of red and pink permeate the world. Whether old or young, each year on February 14th, people celebrate Valentine’s Day to show appreciation for our loved ones. However, did you know that the concept of Valentine’s Day originated from dark and bloody Roman festivals?

In ancient Rome, February 13th to the 15th was annually dedicated to the undermining of women and animals at the feast of Lupercalia. Unfortunately, this event was immensely dehumanizing and began with the sacrifice of goats and dogs by the Luperci. Following their deaths, the hides of those animals were used to beat women. During this ceremony, women were also involuntarily subjected to the wrath and abuse of men who sought to make them fertile. 

During this barbaric festival, couples were matched when men drew the names of young women from a jar. Also considered a “matchmaking lottery”, this event consolidated romantic relationships between two individuals for the duration of the festival, allegedly inspiring great connection and love.

There are also other violent connections between the Ancient Romans and Valentine’s Day. On February 14th during the third century, two men by the name of Valentine were executed by Emperor Claudius II. Their deaths were due to their religious beliefs, an act of martyrdom that the Catholic Church honored through their establishment of a new holiday, St. Valentine’s Day. 

As years went on, Pope Gelasius I diffused St. Valentine’s Day and Lupercilla in hopes of expelling the pagan rituals associated with the celebrations and to emphasize the festival’s recognitions of love and fertility. Around this time, people also began confusing these dates with the familiar-sounding holiday, Galatin’s Day, which refers to lovers of women. The similarities between these 3 celebrations facilitated the creation of a much sweeter and romanticized holiday that gained much popularity: Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day has, in many ways, been celebrated ever since the age of ancient Romans. Consequently, the holiday has now become extremely popular and extremely commercialized. Whether with jewelry, flowers, or chocolate, individuals express romantic love towards their partners by buying them gifts. Originating from the barbaric traditions of ancient Romans, Valentine’s Day, over the course of centuries, has transformed into a day of great celebration for couples despite its horrific origins.