Every year on February 14 people express their affection for one another by giving gifts of flowers, cards and chocolates. Many may not know that the holiday actually started as a bloody affair.
The meaning of the holiday has shifted over the years, but has resulted nowadays to a day of love.
Valentine’s Day dates back to the Roman era where they celebrated the feast of Lupercalia on February 15. Men sacrificed dogs and goats and whipped willing women with the skins from the animals. The women believed that this would make them fertile.
The beatings ended with a matchmaking lottery, where young men would draw names from a jar and become sexual partners with that woman for the rest of the festival, or longer if the match was fitting.
The name “Valentine’s Day” comes from another horrendous event, when Emperor Claudius II executed a man by the name of Saint Valentine. He was persecuted for preforming secret rogue marriages against the intentions of Claudius.
Claudius banned the marriage of young people because he believed that soldiers fought better when they were single, because they didn’t have to worry about women and children at home. The church honored the death by creating St. Valentine’s Day.
In the 5th Century, Pope Gelasius rose to power and decided to merge the holidays of Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day in order to create a more civilized way of celebrating. He believed that the Roman Empire needed to rid the gruesome traditions and instill a more positive representation of the holidays for the community.
As generations passed, the holiday flourished into a fully romanticized day. Playwrights like Shakespeare and Chaucer used the holiday to aid their work.
Today, students may feel the pressure to ask someone to be their valentine. However, Stephen Enriquez, junior undeclared major, feels it’s more important to spread the love to everyone.
“The world is my valentine,” he said. “It’s a holiday of love.”
In the light of love and happiness, the holiday has also become extremely commercialized. The hype behind Valentine’s Day encourages people to spend money they otherwise would not.
Stores are filled with Valentine’s gifts with the intention of making profits off them. People may even feel guilty when they do not get their valentine something, Enriquez said.
“Sometimes its been commercialized,” he said. “A lot of times, actually.”
Despite the negatives that may be associated with the holiday, people still embrace the day by expressing their feelings towards others by giving them gifts.
But Enriquez also explains that the holiday goes deeper than just love between two people. Valentine’s Day provides the opportunity to express emotions on multiple different levels with multiple different people, he said.
“The whole world deserves love,” Enriquez said, “and I think if we take that attitude towards it, the holiday is going to take a lot more meaning.”
Nick Bragg can be reached at [email protected] or @Nick981 on Twitter.