So today is the big V Day and judging by the amount of red and white outfits I spotted on my way to the office, people are really getting into it. But I was wondering, do you know the real story behind Valentine’s Day and why we celebrate it? I decided to pay Google a visit to find out the truth about Valentine’s Day and what I found was pretty interesting! Want to know more about it? Well, it goes a little something like this:
Story #1: Valentine – he was an actual guy
Some stories suggest that Valentine is actually a priest who served during the third century in Rome. Legend says that then ruler, Emperor Claudias II, had decided that single men made better soldiers than those with families because they fought more carelessly not having to worry about the wife and children at home waiting for them. So he basically outlawed marriage for young men. Yep – unmarried men could not put a ring on it. Anyways, realizing the injustice of the decree, Valentine unleashed his inner toyi-toyi and defied Claudius by performing secret marriages for young lovers. When Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing he ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine was actually killed for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons (where they were beaten and tortured). Another suggests that Valentine was actually imprisoned and he sent the first “valentine” greeting to a girl he fell inlove with… The “soap opera” version implies that the young girl possibly was the jailor’s daughter and that she visited Valentine during his confinement. Before his death (which was supposedly very gruesome) he wrote her a letter and signed it “from your Valentine” and that’s how the expression was born.
Story #2: Valentine – a cover up
So some people say that Valentine’s Day was actually strategically placed in mid-Feb, by the ancient church, in an effort to “Christianise” the pagan celebration of Lubercalia. This event was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture – Faunus. So at this festival, goats and a dog would be sacrificed and skinned in a cave that is said to have housed twins Romulus and Remus (who was nursed by a she-wolf… ya). Anyways the blood covered hide would be used to “gently slap” women and crop fields, in order to induce fertility and to “purify” the women. This act is said to guarantee easy childbirth too. Later on, young women in the city would place their names in a big urn and the city’s bachelors would take turns drawing a name of a dame that they would be paired with. The matches would sometimes end in marriage.
February was also the month in which the Romans celebrated Juno Februata – the goddess of febris (fever) of love, women and marriage. So apparently on February 14, billets of paper, each holding a name of a teen girl, was put into a container. Teen boys would then draw a name and the pair would become a couple. Yep – a bonafide love lottery. They would be expected to join in erotic games, feasts and parties, which was celebrated throughout Rome. After the festival, they would sometimes remain together for the rest of the year. You guys, I’m not making this up, the custom was observed in the Roman Empire for a long time.
So there you have it. Happy Valentine’s Day!