Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated in America with teddy bears, sweets, and love. However, it wasn’t always celebrated this way. In Ancient Rome, this holiday was celebrated for three days, in which goats and dogs were slaughtered for a feast. Then, using the hides of the animals that were just slain, women were brutally whipped (Seipel 2). These women also lined up to be hit, punched, or slapped by men, believing it would bring them fertility. The men who whipped and hit these women were drunk and oftentimes naked during the feasts. As well as the food they ate, the men were also ‘rewarded’ at the end of a makeshift raffle with a woman that they would be able to couple up with for however long they wished, even past the end of the festival (Seipel 3). Later, during one of these festivals, two seperate men with the last name Valentine were executed on February 14. This is where our modern day holiday gets its name (Seipel 4).
The Catholic Church took over this holiday and rebranded it into rituals to banish the pagan remnants of the day. They also honored the two martyrs with feasts and drinking, keeping the traditions of the holiday but with the “clothes back on it” (Seipel 5). It stayed a day of fertility and love on a much lesser scale. As the years went on, the holiday was romanticized into what we know today — mainly because of the romanticized view that authors such as Shakespeare took regarding it. This influenced a large change in feelings regarding the holiday, and it gained popularity. This is also when the tradition of sending cards started (Seipel 6). During the Industrial Revolution in America, businesses found out they could make money through the holiday, and it’s never been the same since (Seipel 7). Over the years, Valentine’s Day has morphed into a commercialized holiday based on spending money, however sweet it may be. However, it wasn’t always this way, and many people are unaware of the strange and dark origins of now such a lovey-dovey day.
Source: Seipel, Arnie. “The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day.” WKAR Public Media, 14 Feb. 2022, https://www.wkar.org/wkar-news/2011-02-13/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day.
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