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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    History of V-Day not so sweet

    Regan Norton
    Valentine’s Day gifts being sold in the Student Union on Thursday, February 12.

    Heart-shaped symbols have long represented matters of love and no holiday moreso than Valentine’s Day. Though Valentine’s Day is a now a celebration where people purchase candy, stuffed animals and roses to show appreciation for their significant others, the holiday’s origins were not always quite so sugary sweet. But just like how the heart shapes we draw today are no anatomical representations of human hearts, Valentine’s Day has changed drastically since its beginnings. And like the anatomical human heart, the original Valentine’s Day celebrations were much more bloody. 

    The origin of the day comes from the Roman holiday Lupercalia. Celebrated between Feb. 13 and 15, Lupercalia was meant to foster fertility. Though the sentiment doesn’t seem too far off from today’s sex-filled holiday, the ancient Romans’ idea of fertility was achieved by sacrificing animals and whipping women with the dead animals’ hides. To finish off the festival, bachelors would select a single name from an urn full of the names of young women, and the two would be forcibly matched for the duration of the festival or sometimes longer.

    As many know, Valentine’s Day is rumored to be named after St. Valentine. But while the story told is that Valentine was clubbed, stoned and beheaded to death, there were in fact two St. Valentines. 

    “Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the third century A.D.,” writes Arnie Seipel in “The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day” for NPR. “Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.”

    Claudius banned soldiers from marrying, but Valentine went behind his back and performed the ceremonies anyway. It is said that while Valentine was imprisoned, he somehow healed the blind daughter of his jailer. According to The Huffington Post article “The History (and Present) of Valentine’s Day,” on the eve before he was executed, Valentine wrote a note to the daughter and signed it, “From, your Valentine.” 

    In the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day was linked to romantic connotations when it was believed that Feb. 14 was the first day of birds’ mating seasons. Written valentines began to appear in the 1400s — the oldest of which was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. 

    William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer also hold a place in Valentine’s Day history. Shakespeare romanticized the day in both “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet,” and Chaucer’s poem “The Parlement of Foules” praises the saint the holiday’s named for. 

    Today, Valentine’s Day has turned into a commercial phenomenon. 

    Total spending on Valentine’s Day is estimated to hit $18.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey, 

    Each year, it seems as though people are willing to spend more and more money on Valentine’s Day. The three most popular items to spend money are candy (53.3 percent), flowers (37.8 percent) and dinner out (35.1 percent), according to the survey. 

    No matter if you choose to spend Valentine’s Day reciting Shakespeare and spending money on your date or opt for Single’s Awareness Day and treating yourself, one thing’s for sure — this is one holiday we shouldn’t do as the Romans did. 


    Follow Chelsea Cook on Twitter.

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