Boise Highlights

The Dark Side of Valentine’s Day

Love+isn%27t+always+fun+and+games.%0APhoto+credit%3A+Georgia+Udall
Love isn't always fun and games.
Photo credit: Georgia Udall

Love isn't always fun and games. Photo credit: Georgia Udall

Love isn't always fun and games. Photo credit: Georgia Udall

Georgia Udall, Reporter

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February- the month of love. You might hate it, and you might adore it. But the truth is, Valentine’s Day was not always so sweet. It started with the ancient Romans celebrating a feast called Lupercalia, lasting from February 13th- 15th. It was a celebration of the coming of Spring and fertility. The men would slay a couple of animals as sacrifice to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. Then the men would whip the women with the animal skins, believing this would make the women fertile.

The rest of the festival involved other types of love between the men and the women. Throughout the entire event, everyone was intoxicated. The celebration survived until the end of the 5th century, when it was deemed un-Christian by the Catholic church.

There is more to the story: while there are several accounts of saints named Valentine being martyred, a particular man’s story is associated with the holiday. During the 3rd century in Rome, there was a priest named Valentine who would perform secret marriages for couples, as men weren’t allowed to marry. Unmarried men were thought to make better soldiers in ancient Rome, so it was forbidden.

When Valentine’s actions were discovered, he was sent to jail to await a sentence. While he was there, it is said the he wrote the first ever valentine to his lover- who was actually the daughter of the jailer- signed “From Your Valentine”. Valentine was visited by Claudius II, the emperor. Valentine refused to agree to the ban on marriage, and he was beheaded on February 14th, 270 AD. The day became significant for lovers, but it wasn’t a holiday until Pope Gelasius I made it so in the 5th century. People began to exchange formal valentines soon after. Now we have a very definitive idea of what Valentine’s Day is, but not many people are aware of its origins.

Nowadays, we focus less on such intense themes throughout Valentine’s Day, but there are clear lasting effects that this holiday has on the nation. According to The National Retail Federation, US consumers spent over 19 billion dollars on Valentine’s day purchases in 2016. The average American spent $146.84, the Federation claims, and this year, Valentine’s Day sales are expected to top $19 billion.

To me, it is strange how the ideas surrounding Valentine’s Day have changed so greatly. Love used to mean hitting women with animal skins and hoping to make them fertile.  Now it might be more based on how many gifts we buy a loved one. Others think love is all internal and unaffected by how you show it. Either way, it’s clear that love is out there.

This year, I hope you will all consider the strange history behind Valentine’s Day. Look out for other people who celebrate in strange ways. Most of all, be glad that someday you can get married without being executed, and show a lot of love to everyone around you!

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The Dark Side of Valentine’s Day