Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. You might find this super commercial holiday to be rather annoying, especially if you’re single or in a low-romance, no-fuss relationship. But perhaps the history of this “day of love” will put a smile on your face. Like all commercialized holidays, the history of Valentine’s Day is one that’s full of death, sacrifice, and blood.
Three Saints named Valentine
The holiday was named after 3 martyred saints, all named Valentine or Valentinus. Which one we are honoring, no one knows. What is known is that all three were executed by the Roman Empire for some love or relationship related action. One was accused of marrying young men and women in secret, another was killed for having a secret lover and yet another for helping people escape prosecution.
Before the saints got involved in this holiday, the Pagans celebrated a day of fertility on the 15th of February. Sacrifices were made to the god of fertility, Lupercalia. A goat and a dog were sacrificed and their hides were stripped off. People would then run around town whipping each other with the bloody hides because they thought this would make them more fertile.
Pagans and Saints
When the Romans adopted Christianity, they tried to incorporate Pagan traditions into Christianity for the sake of an easy transition. Of course, other more barbaric rituals were banned (like whipping people with bloody hides). It could very well be that Valentine’s Day is a mix of both Pagan and saintly influence.
The first written account we have of a Valentine’s Day love poem was written in 1375 by an English poet. (Wouldn’t it be funny if his name had been Hallmark?) Although, before that, it was believed that people sent handmade love notes to each other. Over time, the holiday became more and more commercialized, especially in the 20th century.
Today, Valentine’s Day is an optional holiday. Some people love it, others prefer to celebrate the fact that they are single (called Singles Awareness Day, acronym: SAD) the day after, on the 15th of February. Frankly, with all the unrest that is going on in the world, very little thought will be given to how you celebrate this day. Unless you decide to do as the Pagan’s did.