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Valentine’s Day hasn’t always been a popular date night centering around cookies, candy, flowers and greeting cards.

In ancient Rome, the feast of Lupercalia was held from February 13 to 15. Men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped the women with the hides of the slain animals.

Naked drunk revelry was had; women actually believed that the whipping would make them more fertile. The celebration included a matchmaking lottery; men drew the names of women from a jar. The couples were then paired for the rest of the festival, or longer if they really hit it off.

Valentine’s Day came into the fray after two different men — both named Valentine — were executed (beheaded to be exact) by Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was commemorated with the Catholic Church’s celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.In the 5th century, the two celebrations were combined by Pope Gelasius I.

The church’s influence on the festivities put the clothes back in the picture, but the drunk revelry continued. The day was still a celebration of fertility and love.

Adding more confusion to the picture, Galatin’s Day, a day to celebrate the love of women, was celebrated by the Normans around the same time.

So today’s holiday is the product of weird pagan sacrifices, the bloody execution of two men, and lots of weird mating rituals.

The Europeans put the romance in Valentine’s Day through poetry and sweet talk. Chaucer and Shakespeare in particular made the holiday gain popularity through their poetry.

The first love note associated with the holiday could be Valentine of Rome’s note to his beloved, which he left before his execution. It was signed, “From your Valentine.”

Handmade paper cards took off in the middle ages, but the holiday only became the commercialized craze it is today in the 19th century.

Greeting card powerhouse Hallmark took control of the business in 1913 when they started mass producing valentines.

Of course, today it is impossible not to associate February with cheap paper cards with cheesy one liners, chocolates, chalky conversation hearts, and dozens of roses.

But remember that once the holiday was a feast where people took part in a sexual lottery and sacrificed animals. Should we view today’s traditions as a step up or a downgrade?

Either way, it seems that V-day is here to stay.

Andrew S. Avitt / Photographer: Valentine’s Day is known as a romantic holiday involving flowers, candy and cards, but the holiday actually dates back from Roman times.

Andrew S. Avitt / Photographer:
Valentine’s Day is known as a romantic holiday involving flowers, candy and cards, but the holiday actually dates back from Roman times.

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