History of Valentines Day
From Whips and Sacrifices to Roses and Chocolates
I have never really been a fan of the holiday. Back in elementary school, I probably loved it. Class party, cards from friends, little gifts from family, it was cute. Then you hit middle school and now you see the other side of it: a way to show off who is dating. We are not getting into me not dating in middle school, that is an entirely different post that involves bullying, potential law suits, and a lot of tears. The only tears I want from this post is from laughter. So here we go, the History of Valentines Day.
It always starts with Ancient Rome:
Let's face it the Romans and Greeks of ancient times knew how to throw a party. Drinking, dancing in the streets, sex, and sacrificial slaughter. So why should Valentines day be any different? Well the Romans added whips.
In Ancient Rome around February 13 to 15 (exact date is a bit muffled because there is a different calendar at this point in history) the Romans celebrated Lupercalia.
What the heck is Lupercalia? It was a pagan festival held in Rome that is believed to have been held to honor the she-wolf that raised the twins Romulus and Remus who had been thrown into the Tiber river by their Uncle. They were rescued and raised by wolves. The festival was held in honor of the she-wolf as well as honoring the Roman fertility god Lupercus.
And what did people do during the feast?
Well, I am glad that you asked. Men would slaughter animals such as goats and ... even dogs. They would then create whips from the hides of the animals they slaughtered to whip women.
The women would be lining up to be whipped (I'm cringing from writing that) because they believed that it would make them more fertile.
Now if you were single at this time, don't worry they had an answer for that as well. A singles Lottery. Your name would be written on clay shards than randomly matched with a mother person. Once paired you would be allowed some alone time to see if the match worked.
So while there was sacrifice and whipping, the Romans did look out for the single people.
I know, how did we get to calling Lupercalia Valentines Day. It's a big jump. Well I'm glad you asked that as well.
A Roman Emperor, a Pope, and a Name Change
The Roman Emperor is Claudius the Second. And on February 14th of two different years he happened to execute two men who both were named Valentine. So did he not like the name or something?
Well it turns out he was pissed off that men wouldn't leave their families to join the army. So he banned engagements and marriages. A priest, by the name of Valentine, didn't listen to the mad decree and continued performing marriages making an enemy of the Emperor in the process. And by doing so he was sentenced to death by being neatened by clubs and then beheaded. Now there is a legend that the Priest left a note in his cell for the Emperor that was signed : From your Valentine. Valentine would be declared a saint after his death by the Catholic Church, along with two other guys named Valentine. One of the other Valentine's who was also sentenced to execution by Claudius was from one of the Roman provinces in Africa.
Now we get to the Name change.
In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius the First decided that he didn't like the pagan festival Lupercalia and all it's traditions. So he decided to change it's name, because hey what's in a name. He decreed that February 14th would be named St. Valentine Day in honor of the martyr's who were executed on that day.
Which meant no more sacrifices of goats and ... dogs. It also meant more clothes and prayer to the Christian god for love and fertility.
Now a quick side note: See the Romans weren't the only one's that celebrated a holiday and the 14th. The Normans, from the Norman Invasion, also celebrated a festival called Galentin Day, which translates into lover of women.
So how did we get from Blood and Papal Decrees to Cards, Roses, and Chocolates?
While it was not the commercial insanity that it is today, Valentine's Day has been celebrated in different ways for a long time. Both Shakespeare and Chaucer paid homage to the holiday . In the Middle Ages, hand made Valentine's were made and given out to friends and family.
How it got to where we are today are because of one person and one store. Esther Howland, in the 1840's, began to make elaborate cards and creation with red lace and colorful pictures. But it doesn't really go crazy until 1913 when a little store in Kansas City, MO called Hallmark Cards starts to mass produce the cards.
The Greeting Card Association estimates that over 145 million valentine cards are bought each year. Mostly by women.
For Florists, it's the number one holiday. And over 198 million roses are planted and cut just from the holiday. Unlike with the cards, Men are the one's that mostly buy the flowers. 60% of those roses are from California.
And then there is the Chocolate!!!!!!! I'm big on waiting until after the holiday to buy it 50%off. But it is serious business, next to Halloween, for Chocolate produces. Over 58 million pounds of Chocolate is purchased for the holiday.
How do we celebrate?
We are not Valentine's Day people. I don't need gifts. Yes we spoil Mr. Dude, he get's a card and a gift. He goes into school and hands out his Valentine's, Minecraft themed this year, to his classmates. We talk about how it's nice to show people you care all year round, that emotions aren't bad.
Either myself or my husband will make a nice dinner, something we don't normally splurge on. I break out my good china, and instead of eating off our everyday dishes, we eat off the china my grandmother started me on when I was 16. Instead of $4 bottles of wine we might go really crazy and splurge on $8 bottles, since he drinks red and I drink white. And we eat at home with Mr. Dude being our entertainment. To me it's perfect. Even before our son, it was what we did.
Dave doesn't buy me flowers because I'm allergic to most. He doesn't buy me chocolate because I have a tree nut allergy so if he handed me a heart shaped box of chocolates I would probably think he was trying to kill. (I'm kidding, remember I write horror books.) And sometimes, if a card really grabs our attention, we will exchange cards. I think the last card I bought him was a few years ago but I had too. It was Princess Leia and Han, with I love you on the front and I know on the inside. So I had too.
In my opinion, I think Valentine's has become all commercial. Away for stores and restaurants to up their normal prices because people will pay. For me, it's just little holiday where we talk about love and kindness, we eat a nicer meal, drink nicer wine, and we spend time with each other. And Mr. Dude get's to see that you don't have to go crazy on the holiday.
Sorry this post was later than normal. Mr. Dude was sick on and off all last week, which kind of pushed everything back: this blog post, finalizing interior and exterior proofs for Shattered Ghost and getting it published. Because it is soooo close to being done.
And too all the single people: relationships should never define you. You define you. You don't need a relationship to make you whole. On V-Day, go on a date with your parent's, take them out, spend time with the people you care about. Make it a day about love, love of family, of friends. Buy yourself flowers and chocolate, take a long soak in a bath with a nice glass of champagne. Do something for yourself on that day and embrace yourself, love yourself.
Sites I got information from:
NPR: Dark Origins of Valentines Day
History Channel: History of Valentines Day
Nielsen: Us shows their love for Chocolate on Valentine's Day.