The Strange History of Valentine’s Day

The countdown to Valentine’s Day is officially on!

Come February 14th, we’ll all be feeling Cupid’s presence in the air. Couples will make dinner reservations and gift each other with candy and roses. Everything will be dripping in pink and red, and you may even discover that you have a secret admirer.

If you and your partner love the stranger side of life, you may even try out some unusual Valentine’s Day dates. Or, if you’ll be spending Valentine’s Day 2019 solo, you can take yourself out for a peculiar and memorable time.

But contrary to popular belief, these are not the only ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day. In fact, the true history of Valentine’s Day is actually much darker than most people realize. Of course, chocolate and card companies wouldn’t want you to know this. But if you’re ready to understand the real story of Valentine’s Day, read on!

Who is Saint Valentine?

It’s not uncommon to hear people praise Saint Valentine every February 14th. But who was he really and what’s his association with the history of Valentine’s Day?

Saint Valentine was a Roman priest during the time of Emperor Claudius II’s reign. Claudius was a ruthless ruler who not only persecuted Christians. He also banned marriage, believing this would help make better fighters out of young soldiers.

Being the true romantic that he was, Saint Valentine disobeyed Claudius’ unjust ruling. Once the authorities discovered Saint Valentine’s defiance, they tortured and imprisoned him. He was brutally killed on February 14th in either 269 or 270. He was only in his early 40’s at the time of his death.

Some view Saint Valentine as a martyr for love and marriage. But there are conflicting beliefs as to how else he stands as a martyr. According to one legend, he prayed and cured a young blind girl. It’s also suggested that he helped Christians flee the empire, in addition to wedding them.

To this day, Saint Valentine is often referred to as the Patron Saint of Love. The story of Saint Valentine is romantic and honorable indeed. But he is not the only reason why we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The Festival of Lupercalia

The holiday of love may get its name from the Roman priest and martyr, Saint Valentine. But the history of Valentine’s Day dates even further back to ancient times… long before the rise of Christianity and the Roman empire.

Lupercalia was an ancient Roman festival that usually fell sometime around February 14th. Before it became known as Lupercalia, it was commonly referred to as Februatus. This Latin name denotes several meanings, usually in honor of the god, Februalis.

Lupercalia later got its name as the festival would occur in the cave of Lupercal. This cave rested at the edge of Palatine Hill in Rome. It is here the goddess, Rumina, lived. It’s also where the she-wolf nursed Romulus and Remus, which, as a story, has always symbolized the city of Rome.

During Lupercalia, the Romans would travel to Lupercal, where they would sacrifice animals. The blood of a male goat and a dog were usually smeared onto the foreheads of virgins during the sacrifice. The priest performing the ritual would then wipe the blood using a milk-dipped piece of wool.

That’s not even the half of it. Athletes attending the festival would then wear the skin of the sacrificed goat. These athletes would then parade around the city of Rome, whipping those they came across. Women would often present themselves to the athletes in the hopes of improving their fertility.

So, what’s the connection between Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day? The correlation between the two isn’t quite clear. But Lupercalia has always occurred around the time of February 14th. Both Lupercalia and the legend of Saint Valentine are prominent in Roman culture. It’s likely that the Romans began to associate the two – despite their stark differences.

What About Cupid?

We’ve talked plenty about the story of Saint Valentine. We’ve even delved into the bizarre festival of Lupercalia. But what about our man, Cupid? Who was he and why is he so rooted in Valentine’s Day?

Cupid is the Roman god of desire, affection, and erotic love. He’s often portrayed as a cherub-like boy with wings. He’s most known for his bow and arrow, which he uses to attract two potential lovers to one another.

Cupid has made appearances in ancient folklore, art, and pop culture alike. For generations, Cupid has served as the quintessential icon of Valentine’s Day. But the origins of Cupid’s correlation to V-Day are not exactly known.

Valentine’s Day & Poetry

It’s not uncommon for die-hard romantics to proclaim their love to their Valentine in the form of a poem. But it’s not that unusual, as Valentine’s Day is deeply-rooted in poetry. So, if you were wondering where the lovey nature of V-Day comes from, you can thank the great English poets for that!

In his 1382 poem, Parlement of Foules, Chaucer mentions Valentine’s Day. It was among the earliest mentions of the holiday in the English language. But in this same poem, Chaucer goes on to illustrate how lovebirds come together to mate on this day especially.

Some couple hundred years later, more English poets began to mention Valentine’s Day. Shakespeare, Donne, and Spenser were among the first to correlate the holiday to love. There’s been no shortage of V-Day references in modern music and poetry, either.

How is Valentine’s Day Celebrated Around the World?

In the United States and Canada, people celebrate V-Day with flowers and candy galore. But in other parts of the world, it’s celebrated differently… and not always on February 14th.

In China, for example, there is Chinese Valentine’s Day. On this day, people celebrate the folktale of the Cowherder and the Weaving Maid. The tale tells the story of two lovers banned to opposite ends of the Milky Way. It’s believed that once a year, a bridge forms across the Milky Way, allowing the lovers to be together.

In Israel, it’s not uncommon to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th. But it’s more common to celebrate another holiday known as Tu B’av, which occurs in the summer rather than in February. It’s considered the Jewish equivalent to Valentine’s Day. On this day, couples gift each other with cards, candy, and flowers. But in ancient times, girls would frolic around gardens wearing white while their suitors awaited their arrival.

In other parts of the Middle East, Christians view Saint Valentine as the patron saint of love. Roses, chocolate, and gift-giving are not uncommon in places like Lebanon. Throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, people celebrate V-Day in the same way Americans do.

Celebrate the History of Valentine’s Day

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day 2019?

Now that you understand the history of Valentine’s Day, you’ll have some knowledge to share with your Valentine. Talking about Lupercalia will surely make for interesting dinner conversation. Or, you could recite a Shakespeare poem as an alternative to giving flowers or chocolate.

To honor the stranger side of Valentine’s Day, consider going to the “Twisted Love” event. This year, Cutting Edge Haunted House is making way for a handful of lovelorn ghouls and ghosts… and they’ll be angry to see you with none other than their ex.

Here’s a sneak peek to “Twisted Love” at the Cutting Edge:

So, what are you waiting for? Valentine’s Day is only a week away. Tickets for “Twisted Love” are on sale now!