The Peculiar Origin of Valentine’s Day

The Peculiar Origin of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  The day of spending time with your significant other, eating at a restaurant, perhaps indulging in sweets, receiving/sending a secret admirer letter, or maybe you spend it alone at home.  Regardless of what you do, are you aware of the history behind the infamous day?  How did animal sacrifice and whipping women with animal intestines turn into this pink and red day of love?  

The origin is somewhat unknown, but the Romans are thought to be responsible for the celebrated February 14th, containing both Roman and Christian traditions.  In ancient Rome, the fertility festival of Lupercalia was celebrated.  It was dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, and the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.  Roman priests would begin by gathering around a sacred cave to sacrifice a goat and a dog for fertility and purification, respectively.  The goat’s hides were cut and dipped in blood, then taken to the streets where women waited to be slapped or whipped.  

The Roman women were far from apprehensive.  On the contrary, they welcomed the sacrificial intestines’ touch; it was thought to make them more fertile in the coming years.  Later in the day, the names of young women were placed in an urn where the city’s bachelors would come and choose a name to be paired with.  The matches would usually end in marriage.  (Can you think of TV shows that adapt the concept of pairing two strangers?)

Ultimately, Lupercalia was outlawed and deemed “non-Christian.”  Pope Gelasius stated that February 14th was St. Valentine’s Day.  Despite this, the day was far from being kindred with love.  It wasn’t until the Middle Ages in France and England that February 14th was thought to be the beginning of birds’ mating season, aiding in correlating the date with affection.  Poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to document the day as a celebration of romance in his poem “Parliament of Foules,” written in 1375.

Then came about the idea of written valentine notes, the inclusion of Cupid, different tokens of affection, and what we know today.  Frankly, the whole story may seem “out of this world” and outrageous, but that seems to be a common theme with the origins of holidays and celebrations.  But hey, now you’re more informed and have some neat insight to share!  

Would you like to send a secret admirer letter to a fellow Peekskill High School student?  Fill out this Google Form made by Mercury President Kiarah Filippakopoulos, and a digital valentine will be sent with your message! <3