The surprising history behind Valentine’s Day

Franchesca Walker

The recipe for Valentine’s Day calls for a dozen red roses, heart shaped boxes of chocolate, teddy bears, and love letters for many people’s significant others. As many people know, Valentine’s Day is extremely special for those who are in a relationship and children who distribute cards to classmates.

The romantic holiday is celebrated among countless Americans each year, and many companies pocket millions of dollars off of Valentine’s Day sales. Although the holiday glorifies love and expressing it, cupid’s special day has a dark past that many Americans aren’t aware of and isn’t romantic as some celebrators may have imagine.

The history of Valentine’s Day dates back to ancient Rome. During February 13-15, the Romans celebrated a pagan holiday called Lupercalia. According to the article, “The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day,” by Arnie Siepel, during Lupercalia, men took part in a scarification of animals and used the hides to whip women.

Siepel wrote, “From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia,” Siepel wrote. “The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.”

The women volunteered to endure pain because they believed the whippings would increase fertility.

Siepel also explains during the festival, the men and women were randomly selected and matched together and would “hook up” during the festival.

As time progressed, Lupercalia faded away and was no longer practiced. The three-day holiday blended with other holidays and celebrations during February.

Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, received its name from the Roman Catholic saint, St. Valentine.

In David Kithcart’s article, “St. Valentine, The Real Story,” he describes St. Valentine’s life and his passion of love, then death.

St. Valentine was known for love and secretly marrying young couples. However, this was against the Catholic Church and the Roman emperor at the time, Emperor Claudius II ordered Valentine to be executed, which was on Feb. 14.

Kithcart quotes a priest named Father O’Gara who explains why the church forbade young marriage.

“This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died,” O’Gara explained in the article.

It wasn’t until the 14th century when William Shakespeare romanticized Valentine’s Day through his literal work.

In his screen play “Hamlet,” Shakespeare writes of the character Ophelia singing in Act 4, Scene 5, “Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day And early in the morning I’m a girl below your window Waiting to be your Valentine.”