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Valentine's Day: the not so romantic beginning

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Feb 13th 2018 10:00 pm

Known for its over-commercialized romance movies, chocolate and abundances of roses, Valentine’s Day, sometimes called Saint Valentine’s Day, is a day where people celebrate their love for one another and exchange gifts to show their appreciation. Despite the gushy romance and pink-theme, the holiday actually has quite the strange and dark history.

Valentine’s Day was most likely named because of Marcus Aurelius Claudius, the emperor of Rome, who sometime between 268-270 A.D. outlawed marriage for young men in order to get them to sign up for the army. St. Valentine, a priest in Rome, married young couples in secret, leading to his execution at the age of 43 and given a Saint status by the Catholic Church. After this, Valentine’s Day got its name; however, the day was already a holiday. 

The earliest recorded “Valentine’s Day” celebration took place before St. Valentine was even around. Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival that went on from February 13 through February 15, consisted of sacrificing goats and a dog in a sacred cave somewhere in the mountains. After they sacrificed the animals, they would use a bloody knife to mark their foreheads and were required to laugh during the ritual, as it was considered bad luck not to.  

After skinning the sacrificed animals, the men would cut the animals’ hides into strips and soak them in milk and blood. They would then strip naked and run through the villages with the bloody hide strips, which they used to whip women with, as it was believed that women were barren until they were hit with the animal hides.

At the end of each day over the span of Lupercalia, the women would each carve their name into an urn of their choosing and then put them back with the other urns. The men would then pick one of the urns and find the woman it belonged to. Using this method to get together with a woman, the man would attempt to impregnate and marry her.

Eventually, the festival of Lupercalia was officially outlawed, but Pope Gelasius chose to instead keep the holiday spirit by dialing down the festivities grotesque traditions and combining it all on February 14. The celebration of St. Valentine’s life and Lupercalia became Valentine’s Day. By the 1400s, Valentine’s Day became known as a romantic holiday after Richard II’s engagement.

So next time you go to a Hallmark store during Valentine’s Day to buy your significant other a cute, gushy card, remember that your act of romance is nothing compared to slapping them with milk-soaked dog skin. 




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