Valentine’s Day wasn’t always the chocolate-box, lovey-dovey day it is today. Long before the Hallmark cards and costly bling, there were animal sacrifices, debauched parties and mass beatings of women
Although historians aren’t all on the same page when it comes to the exact origin of Valentine’s Day, there are two main ideas. One begins with the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which took place between 13 and 15 February, when Roman men would sacrifice a goat and a dog to their gods.
If that wasn’t enough, they would take the raw animal hides, and go out into the streets of the towns where they would whip women with the hides.
Women actually used to line up, wanting to be whipped in the hope that it would lead to pregnancy! However, what was more likely to have caused pregnancy was the fact that men used to draw a woman’s name out of a hat, and she would be forced to ‘pair up with him’ throughout the weekend. Records don’t show whether or not this was entirely consensual, but the Feast of Lupercalia was known to be a very drunken, debauched time.
Martyrs and poets
When the Catholic Church came into power, it tried to rein in the chaos, and changed the Feast of Lupercalia into a new holiday called Valentine’s Day. Two martyrs, both called ‘Valentine’, were executed around that time, but there is debate as to which one the holiday was named after.
Around the same time of year, the French celebrated Galtin’s Day (meaning ‘lover of women’), and over time the two holidays became intermingled. The romance of the day was enhanced when the celebrated author and poet, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about it.
Eventually in the 1840s, it took off in America, where cards were mass-produced, and thus was created the holiday we know today, full of cards, chocolate and mass consumerism.
Clarens, Free State Province