It’s OFFICIALLY the most romantic time of the year. Cupid has his bow knocked. Candy hearts and red-hot candies can be found on store shelves and littering carpets. And love is most certainly in the air!
But have you ever stopped to wonder… why?
Why is it that every year in February, we celebrate love? Well, in today’s article, I’m going take you step-by-step through the historical events that transpired to bring us one of the most controversial holidays of the year: VALENTINE’S DAY.
The Priest Who Performed Forbidden Weddings
In the 3rd century, Rome was the world power. A major reason why they were such a major power was due to the strength of their army. In conflict after conflict, the Roman army utterly destroyed its opponents.
The Roman emperor Claudius II believed that single men fought better than married. So he made a decree outlawing marriage for young men.
At this time, the catholic church was the major religion of the city. A priest of the catholic church, Valentine, believed Claudius’s decree was unjust. So, he would marry together young couples, defying the emperor’s law!
From Priest to Saint
Word spread fast. And soon, couples from all over were coming to Valentine to be married in secret. Yet word also spread in other places. And soon Claudius II received word of Valentine’s covert operation.
When Claudius found out, he flew into a rage, and ordered Valentine beheaded.
Because he was killed for helping his religion, Valentine became a martyr, and is now officially recognized by the Catholic church as St. Valentine.
The First Valentine
Although the story of St. Valentine is dramatic, the truth is historians don’t know how accurate it is. In fact, St. Valentine could be another man during that exact same period… who was also beheaded by Claudius II.
It’s said during this time period, a catholic named Valentine was imprisoned for helping other Christians escape prisons where they were harshly tortured. He fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, and sent her the world’s first valentine. A note, reading simply… “From your Valentine”.
An Ancient Bloody Cure for Fertility
This next part is a little brutal. But… history is brutal. So, for those with the stomach to continue, let’s talk about where Valentine’s day REALLY came from.
It just so happens that February is also when the pagan celebration Lupercalia takes place. This is a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
The festival was held in a secret cave. This was no ordinary cave. It was where the eventual founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were cared for and raised by a she-wolf!
At the start of the ritual, priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility. They would then skin the goats, dip them in blood, and emerge from the cave. Women would line up at their doors to be gently slapped with this blood-soaked goat hide, as they believed it would make them fertile.
It’s now believed that what we know as Valentine’s day was used by Christian’s to “cover-up” the festival of Lupercalia. And, it looks like it worked. Today, everyone knows about Valentine’s day. While fortunately… no one I know celebrates Lupercalia!
The Story of Cupid
Of course, no Valentine’s day history is complete without mention of Cupid. As it turns out, our picture of Cupid is far different from what he was originally… just like the holiday as a whole.
Cupid was clearly inspired by the Greek god of love, Eros. Eros was a tall, extremely handsome god, whose golden arrows could inspire incredible feelings of lust, romance, and passion in the hearts of any they pierced.
According to the ancient poets, he used this power to manipulate them, as love and attraction are the most powerful human emotions.
So, there you have it. The real history of Valentine’s day! Isn’t it interesting to see how today’s holidays evolved from ancient, seemingly insane traditions? And isn’t it even more interesting to see how the history… the very structure of society… can change based on who is currently in power?
Of course, this Valentine’s Day, I wish you the most beautiful day of love you’ve ever experienced. Whether with your partner or alone, we now have the opportunity to make Valentine’s day our own.
And whether it used to be about sacrificing goats or performing secret marriages… from now on… it’s about you. ️