Exploring the History and Traditions of Valentine’s Day

By: MaKenna Moore  

     This Sunday of 2021, February fourteenth may mean spending time with your significant other and exchanging gifts. It may mean sitting home alone giving gifts to yourself, but in the third century this would have been a day full of illegal acts.  

     Born in 226 AD in Terin Italy, Saint Valentine had been known as a  roman saint. According to the History channel, they state he was a married man, and the emperor during that time had deemed that men who were not married and had no kids were better use to society as soldiers. Emperor Claudius II had set this as his views and then put it under a law that young men could not get married, so they were forced to work for the military. Under the Catholic church, Saint Valentine viewed this law as wrong and unjust. He had defied the law of Emperor  Claudius II and continued to perform marriages in secret. When  Valentine’s practices were discovered, he was sentenced to death.  Others have said it was Saint Valentine who was the true name sake of the holiday for his acts to marry lovers when it was illegal. 

     While that may be the reason for the holiday name, the  “Britannica”  website explains the Roman holiday Lupercalia is also an association with Valentine’s Day. This Roman holiday also occurs on February 14th  every year. The name Lupercalia comes from Lupus, which means wolf in Latin. This holiday has suggested connection with an ancient deity who protected herds from wolves and a legendary she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. 

     The holiday began by sacrificing a goat and a dog to the Luperci. The two sacrifices were then led to the altar, where their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife. The blood was wiped off with wool  and dipped in milk. Then, after, the two young men would laugh.  

     After the ritual came a feast and after the feast came the end of the holiday. Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the sacrificial animals and  continued to run around the Palatine hill, striking any man who came near them with the thongs. The blows from the thong were thought to render a woman fertile. Doing this ritual was thought to avert evil spirits and purify the city, also releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia was also known as “dies Februatus” after the instruments of purification called “Februa,” which gave February its name. Sacrificing ritual or an  executed man, which do you think is the real reason for Valentine’s day? 

     The Squire asked Alex Pascuzzi about her thoughts and opinions on some of the modern Valentine’s Day traditions. We asked her, out of all the Valentine’s Day traditions, which ones do you or have you taken part in before? She shared, “Buying roses for my mom, eating chocolate, and wearing the color red.” Then, she added that her favorite Valentine’s  Day tradition to take part in is enjoying the Valentine chocolate.  

     While the holiday is very romanticized and glorified, sometimes conflicts can occur for the everyday person. So, we asked Alex if she thought Valentine’s Day standards are too high. She responded, “I do not think standards are too high, you can literally wear pink or red, buy chocolate and roses for someone, or even just sit down and enjoy a movie with them because it doesn’t take much to make someone smile.” With the same open attitude, Alex answered the question of whether men have more pressure than women on this day, she said yes. Alex explained, “… it’s harder for most men to understand a little goes a long way; it’s also harder for men to know what to get their significant other. It comes to girls more naturally.” While the holiday is very gift based, we should all remember the most important part of the holiday is appreciating the little things and people themselves.  

     Finally, Alex expressed that participating in Valentine’s Day, is unlike any ordinary day and makes her feel happier. Whether you are  participating by Roman rituals, sacrificing animals to please gods, sitting home alone, or exchanging gifts, we hope this Valentine’s Day brings some joy, appreciation for significant people in your life, and a bunch of chocolate.  

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