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[READ UP] The dark origins of Valentine’s Day

Valentine ’ s Day is a time to celebrate romance and love and kissy -face fealty. But the origins of this festival of candy and cupids are actually dark , bloody — and a bit muddled.

Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday , one good place to start is ancient Rome , where men hit on women by, well, hitting them .

From February 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 .

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love . Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on February 14 of different years in the 3rd century A . D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’ s Day .

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the Fifth Century by combining St. Valentine ’ s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been .

Lenski adds , “ It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it . That didn’ t stop it from being a day of fertility and love . ”

Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’ s Day . Galatin meant “ lover of women. ” That was likely confused with St. Valentine ’ s Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.

As the years went on , the holiday grew sweeter . Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Handmade paper cards became the tokens -du -jour in the Middle Ages.

Eventually , the tradition made its way to the New World . The industrial revolution ushered in factory -made cards in the 19 th century .

And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City , Missouri , began mass producing valentines . February has not been the same since.

Today, the holiday is big business: According to market research firm IBIS World , Valentine ’ s Day sales reached $ 17 . 6bn last year; this year’ s sales are expected to total $ 18 . 6bn .

But that commercialization has spoiled the day for many . Helen Fisher, a sociologist at Rutgers University, says we have only ourselves to blame.

“ This isn ’ t a command performance, ” she says . “ If people didn’ t want to buy Hallmark cards, they would not be bought , and Hallmark would go out of business. ”

And so the celebration of Valentine’ s Day goes on , in varied ways . Many will break the bank buying jewelry and flowers for their beloveds .
Others will celebrate in a SAD (that’ s Single Awareness Day ) way , dining alone and bingeing on self-gifted chocolates.

A few may even be spending this day the same way the early Romans did . But let’ s not go there.

(National Public Radio)

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