Roberts: The fascinating history of Valentine’s Day

A medieval painting of St. Valentine and his disciples, who married people against the will of the Roman empire.

Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A medieval painting of St. Valentine and his disciples, who married people against the will of the Roman empire.

Kyla Roberts, Staff Writer

Everyone knows Valentine’s Day. We start to see the displays for this holiday straight after Christmas — boxes of chocolate and shelves chock full of stuffed animals. While there are varying opinions on this day (usually depending on your relationship status) the history of Valentine’s Day is just as interesting as the drama that comes with it every year.

The origins of this holiday stem from one of the Catholic saints, though it is not exactly clear which one since they all have similar stories. One widely accepted story states when Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage so men would remain single and available to fight as soldiers, a priest named Valentine defied Claudius and continued to marry people; however, when Valentine was found out, he was ordered to be beheaded.

From this story, St. Valentine’s Day is meant to honor the death date of Valentine, but it is also conveniently placed in the middle of the pagan festival Lupercalia. During this event, priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purity. Strips of the goats’ hide would be taken and coated in sacrificial blood, then used to slap women in the belief this would encourage fertility. At the end of the festival, women would place their names in an urn, and men would take turns choosing one of the names. This would decide who would be paired with each other for the rest of the year and would often lead to marriages.

Now if you are not into slapping yourself with blood-coated goat hide or sacrificing a nearby dog, then you might be glad this is no longer a common practice for Valentine’s Day; however, despite this change from sacrificing animals to exchanging chocolates and presents, many still have a hatred for this day because of the nauseating couples that make single people feel even more lonely.

It’s important, however, to remember Valentine’s Day is a day of love, whether it’s between you and a partner, a parent giving their child a box of candy or deciding to show yourself some love. Valentine’s Day has become a heavily commercialized holiday, and companies definitely take advantage of the day, but I still believe the sentiment is sweet. Just because you may not have someone to celebrate it with doesn’t mean you and a group of friends can’t have a secret Valentines gift exchange or that you can’t go out and buy yourself something while watching a sappy rom-com just because.

So for Valentine’s Day, you can appreciate the priest who was beheaded for marrying young couples, decide to slather yourself with a bloody goat hide, celebrate with a significant other or friend or have a date with yourself which, I promise, is not sad. Whatever method of celebration you choose, remember to take this day to remind yourself that you deserve to be loved whether you are in a relationship or not.