Valentine’s Day Origin
To modern-day people, Valentine’s Day is the “Love” holiday, but the holiday didn’t start out that way.
Valentine’s Day, also called St. Valentine’s Day, holiday (February 14) when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts. The holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off of women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. It came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.
From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.
The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.
From the History Channel:
“Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.”
The name Valentine’s Day is alleged to come from a martyred saint of the early Church.
One Saint Valentine was supposedly a Roman priest who performed secret weddings against the wishes of the authorities in the third century. Imprisoned in the home of a noble, he healed his captor’s blind daughter, causing the whole household to convert to Christianity and sealing his fate. Before being tortured and decapitated on February 14, he sent the girl a note signed “Your Valentine.”
Some accounts say another saint named Valentine during the same period was the Bishop of Terni, also credited with secret weddings and martyrdom via beheading on February 14.
Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a tidy, romantic backstory to the holiday, scholars who have studied its origins say there’s very little basis for these accounts.
14th-Century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer is credited with starting the modern-day version of Valentine’s Day.
“So how did Chaucer create the Valentine’s Day we know today? In the 1370s or 1380s, he wrote a poem called ‘Parliament of Fowls’ that contains this line: ‘For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.'” – History Channel
From Smithsonian magazine: “It seems that, in Chaucer’s day, English birds paired off to produce eggs in February. Soon, nature-minded European nobility began sending love notes during bird-mating season. For example, the French Duke of Orléans, who spent some years as a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to his wife in February 1415 that he was ‘already sick of love’ (by which he meant lovesick.) And he called her his ‘very gentle Valentine.'”
Today, Valentine’s Day is a day for candy, flowers and dating . . . but no whipping of women.
As this writer understands it (but has no first-hand knowledge), nowadays, women are the ones doing the whipping.
Side Note: The GIF image of a female cartoon character with the riding whip isn’t what it seems. It is actually a gag from the Japanese anime My Hero Academia.