“Happy” Valentine’s Day

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Jane Jeong, Staff Writer

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Hint: it’s celebrated with cards and candy for elementary school kids and basically nothing for single people.

That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day, the holiday of romance and love all around the world. Though it’s now the holiday of chocolates, flowers, and the source of a movie that completely ripped off Love Actually and has an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (oh, calm down), Valentine’s Day wasn’t always a day of conventional romantic love.

In fact, the holiday has origins in a Roman festival called “Lupercalia.” It was held in mid-February and consisted of Roman priests  sacrificing a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. Then each woman would be paired off with a man by lottery. But that’s not all, oh no. Before going on their random blind dates, both women and crop fields would be slapped with bloodied goat hide strips from the sacrifice for fertility. Nothing says “romance” like being slathered with blood from a goat hide.

It was Pope Gelasius I who changed Lupercalia to St. Valentine’s Day on February 14, as the festival was seen as “un-Christian.” But this is when the history starts to get muddy because there were actually multiple St. Valentines. Or they were all the same saint with a very eventful life. Either way, there are two main stories that suggest why St. Valentine is associated with romance.

Story number one is that he was imprisoned for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons. He befriended, but definitely was not just friends with, his prisoner’s daughter. Some stories even say that he healed her blindness, which is always cool. They sent letters back and forth, and Valentine signed them with the famous “from your Valentine.”

Story number two says Valentine defied the emperor’s laws by secretly marrying couples so they wouldn’t have to be separated by war. Cute! Until he got caught and was put to death…

Some say that the fourteenth of February was chosen as St. Valentine’s Day because it’s his birthday, but some say that it’s the day of his death. Whatever the anniversary of the day is, the day’s association with love had become validated with February during the Middle Ages by being near the mating season of birds. A little bit of a stretch, but okay.

The tradition of Valentine’s Day cards started in the 1500s. Therefore, it is assumed that people were celebrating the day like we do now, with gifts and a day spent with a partner. Valentines weren’t commercially printed in the U.S. until the mid-1800s. Then in 1913, Hallmark was created to mass produce valentines. That’s right, you can thank Valentine’s Day for Hallmark movies.

Nevertheless, Valentine’s Day has seriously come a long way from Lupercalia. It’s almost hard to believe that a day now filled with roses and teddy bears came from some saint’s death and sacrifice. So if you’re lonely or are just having a plain ol’ bad Valentine’s Day this year, just be thankful that you aren’t St. Valentine right now. Or being hit by bloody goat.

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