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Valentine’s Day had a sordid past

Would you be mine?
Photo by Michael Buckner

When we think of Valentine’s Day we think of crowded over priced restaurants and rushing to a convenience store last minute to overpay for a heart shaped box of chocolates.

However, the early days of our romantic holiday weren't always so much fun. According to historian Noel Lenski, Valentine’s Day stems from the Roman holiday Lupercalia which occurred every February 14th.

The women got drunk and naked and then lined up for men to smack them around. The belief was that it somehow made them more fertile.

Today it’s the guys that get smacked around albeit figuratively, when their date has to wait 2 hours for a table so I guess there’s some poetic justice there.

But the good news back in the old days was that couples were then paired up via a lottery and spent the weekend together.

Lupernalia was the ancestor of Valentine’s Day in other ways too. Most notably, a man named Valentine was executed by Emperor Claudius II on Lupernalia. He became a Christian martyr and the namesake of today’s romantic holiday.

When Rome became Christian in the fifth century Lupernalia and Valentine’s Day were combined. There was still much merrymaking and drunkenness but Pope Gelasius got rid of the sex lottery. According to Lenski, "It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn't stop it from being a day of fertility and love though."

Through the centuries Valentine’s Day grew in popularity and Shakespeare and Chaucer began to reference it in their works. Soon the populace in Europe began to make hand made love letters and pass them around. Ultimately, someone at Hallmark in the US in 1913 said "eureka!" and they produced the first manufactured Valentine’s Day card.

Today Valentine’s Day is a close to 20 billion dollar holiday and it’s the Super Bowl of romance. But if you’re a lonely heart or waiting for two hours for a table or get stuck paying $100 for roses last minute just remember it could be worse.
You could be matched up with a total stranger and expected to have sex with them all weekend.

Hey wait a minute…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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