The Barbaric Origins of Valentine’s Day
With Valentine’s day just around the corner, here’s two well-known tales of the history of the most romantic day of the year.
For many of us, Valentine’s day is a time of romantic getaways, wine, good food and thoughtful gift-giving. But many of you may not know the historical origins of the day. While there are many legends and tales regaling the beginnings of this romantic day, there are two striking theories that have gained profound speculation for decades, amongst scholars and the general public alike.
Theory 1: The Pagan Practices of Ancient Romans
The most-popular theory that has circulated across publications for decades claims that Valentine’s day began with the ancient Roman Lupercalia fete. This feast was celebrated within the Roman empire from February 13 to 15, and was undeniably barbaric.
During the Lupercalia fete, the men sacrificed and skinned goats and dogs. The women would then line up and the men would use the fresh animal skins to whip them, as they thought it would make them fertile.
But where this gets interesting is the link to the romantic aspect of the day.
Allegedly, there was a matchmaking lottery system, where the young men picked names of women from a jar. The pair would be coupled for the festival or longer if the match was right.
Theory 2: The Legend of St. Valentine of Terni
While a majority argue that the pagan ritual contributed to the ideology behind Valentine’s Day, many still remain unconvinced. Another popular legend is that of St. Valentine of Terni, after whom the day is named.
According to this legend, Emperor Claudius II passed a law which forbade Roman soldiers from marrying, as he believed married men did not make good soldiers. St. Valentine of Terni defied that law and blessed several marriages, which resulted in his beheading in the 3rd century A.D. It is from here that St. Valentine acquired the image of being the saint of love and marriage.
In a turn of events during the 5th century A.D., Pope Gelasius I strived to expel pagan practices such as Lupercalia, by Christianising the day, thus making it a day of love and marriage. He combined Lupercalia with the memory of St. Valentine as a tribute to his martyrdom and this celebration of love spread across the world.
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