Valentine’s Day wasn’t always about love and caring
Roses, chocolates, dinner reservations, greeting cards and jewelry have become synonymous with Valentine’s Day in modern culture.
However, many believe the history of this “Hallmark holiday” includes a bloody past and may date as far back as ancient Rome.
According to History.com, “The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.” Valentine may have been a priest that rebelled against Emperor Claudius II, who believed that single men made better soldiers than family men, the website explains. Valentine continued to rebel against Claudius, performing marriage ceremonies, but was soon put to death by Claudius.
“Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured,” History.com said. “According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.”
Another belief surrounding the origin of Valentine’s Day maintains that the holiday occurs in the middle of the month because the Christian church wanted to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia with the St. Valentine’s feast. To do this, members of the Luperci would sacrifice a goat and a dog, cut the goat’s hide into strips, dip the strips in blood and then gently slap both women and crop fields with the goat hide. The Roman women believed that being slapped by the goat hide made them more fertile for the coming year, History.com said.
It was not until the 1700’s when exchanging valentines became in vogue, according to americangreetings.com. Once postage became more affordable in the 1800’s, mailing valentines became more popular, the website explains.
Now, The Greeting Card Association notes that Valentine’s Day ranks second only to Christmas as the holiday where the most greeting cards are exchanged. The GCA’s website estimates that 145 million Valentine’s Day greeting cards will be bought this year – a figure that does not include boxed sets of valentines usually distributed in children’s classrooms.