‘Sup Singles! So-Called “Valentine’s Day” Isn’t Real

Photo Credit: Elle Bird
Many stores in the U.S have already begun stocking their shelves in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

Photo Credit: Elle Bird Many stores in the U.S have already begun stocking their shelves in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate. Hearts. Naked Baby with a weapon? Valentine’s Day has been a staple in society for so long, but people have forgotten the interesting traditions, history, and purpose behind the beloved holiday. Where does the holiday come from? Why is it so popular? Who started it? Well, the Catholic church believes that the holiday originates with Saint Valentine, a martyred catholic who died during Roman rule. Others believe that it originated as a Pagan holiday meant to worship the Roman god Faunus. But who is right? Both? Neither?

Come to the library to read any love story that Bingham offers! Photo Credit: Elle Bird

Let’s first start with the Catholic version of Valentine’s Day. The legend of St. Valentine is truly a mystery. The Catholic church believes that Valentine’s Day is based on a martyred saint who helped Christians during the third century of Rome. The Romans during this time believed that men were better soldiers if they didn’t have wives and children holding them back. So they banned all marriages. But how does St. V fit into it? Well, he continued to marry young lovers in secret and was arrested for it. Another story of St. Valentine that people believe in is that Valentine fell in love with a jailor’s daughter and wrote her the first Valentine’s letter. Overall, Valentine’s Day is a day that some people celebrate the anniversary of St. Valentine’s death.

Now on the other hand, we have people who believe that Valentine’s Day originated from Pagan holidays and Roman gods. Celebrated on February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus, who were wolves. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. A mix of The Bachelor and Hunger Games. 

While some people believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to remember the anniversary of Valentine’s death, others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. The Pope of the Catholic church of the time declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14th was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance. 

Now that history’s over with, how do we celebrate today? Like I said before, some believe that St. Valentine sent the first love note for Valentine’s Day. So it’s popular to give a loved one a sweet note with chocolates or flowers. But that’s here in the U.S., so what about other cultures and countries? Marie Grace Young, who served an LDS mission in Switzerland, says that her Valentine’s Days were memorable for sure. She says, “It wasn’t all about romantic love for couples!” Instead, the Swiss focused on all types of love, from father to son, mother to daughter, friend to friend, even a person to their pet. Yes they do still have the romantic side of V Day with the flowers, chocolate, and fancy dinners. Different countries have certain traditions on this momentous day. For instance, in the UK, it was a custom to send cards that weren’t signed because it was said to be bad luck to sign your name. The UK is also the first country to start handing out roses which they believed represented the Roman goddess of love, Venus. In Wales, men tended to give their wives or romantic partners a hand-crafted wooden spoon on January 25th instead of February 14th. The tradition was based on sailors thinking of their significant others on the sea so they carved designs into wooden spoons to give them when they got home. In Slovenia, they believe that February 14th was a day to go work out in the fields to remember St. Valentine, who was a saint of harvest as well. Overall, everyone celebrates V Day a certain way, but the vast majority of the world comes together for this holiday. 

New things we’ve learned today: different people believe different things about Valentine’s Day and its origin. From Lupercalia to St. Valentine in Roman times, the famed holiday has a broad spectrum of different ways that it is celebrated. This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to participate in a custom that you don’t normally do and see how it differs from your normal Valentine’s Day.