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Valentine’s Day Wasn’t Always About Love

By Ava Martin

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.


Well, it’s Valentine’s Day. Got a sweetheart this year? No? That's ok, you can spend your Feb 14th reading about the origins of this ‘dark and mysterious holiday.’


Shakespeare refers to Saint Valentine's Day in A Midsummer Night's Dream (4.1.145) and in Hamlet, when he alludes to the superstition that if two single persons cross paths on Saint Valentine's Day in the morning, they will likely get married.

Shakespeare makes it sound so lovey-dovey!!


But it wasn’t always just flowers, roses and cupids.


There are many dark theories surrounding the origins of Valentine’s Day. From goat skin and fertility to 16th-century greeting cards, here’s a quick spin through several theories on the origins of the holiday dedicated to love, love, love.


The Saint’s name was Valentine -

Starting with the holiday’s namesake - we know Valentine’s Day as the feast of Saint Valentine.


We could guess that he is associated with love and romance, right?


Well, the history of Valentine's Day goes back to 3rd century Rome with the execution of a priest named Valentinus, known today as St. Valentine.


As the legend goes, according to history Claudius II, the emperor, believed that single men made superior soldiers to those with spouses and families. So he prohibited young men from getting married. Valentine thought this was unjust, so he disobeyed Claudius and kept officiating marriages in secret. When Claudius learned, he decreed Valentine's execution.


Technically the man did die for love! So why not remember him?

The Catholic Church now honours his martyrdom on February 14th.



The Festival of Lupercalia -

One of the first references to Valentine's Day can be found in the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia. But the holiday isn’t what you would imagine… It’s probably darker.


The ritual, which took place on February 15, got underway with the customary sacrifice of an unlucky dog and goat.


If that wasn't enough to send Cupid's arrows soaring, a group of priests known as the Luperci then severed a piece of the two beasts' skin, touched it to their foreheads, and then struck it against every woman nearby.

(I'm just going to quickly lie down and get this image out of my mind..)


It was said that the women believed it would increase their fertility. Seems like we’ve got some very strong beliefs about love during this era!


By the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius had seen enough and substituted Lupercalia with St Valentine's Day.


No more sacrifice, only love.

(Thank goodness! - thinking that being slapped with a severed piece of goat skin will make you fertile is probably worse than still believing that the earth is flat!)



The rise of gifts -

One thing’s for certain - Valentine’s Day is a billion-dollar business.


As the holiday draws near, Aussies anticipate spending $485 million on Valentine's Day, up 16.9% from the previous year.


Back in the 16th century, one of the earliest holiday cards was created. The now-iconic phrase "Will you be my Valentine?" was added.


And Esther Howland was one of the first Americans to create holiday cards in 1847. In 1868, Richard Cardbury was the next to produce the first chocolate box.


The event is now observed all around the world with gifts like red flowers, chocolates, date nights to the movies, and much more.


One of the newer traditions is known as ‘Galentine’s day’ which I'm sure a lot of you would have celebrated. Created in 2010, it is often celebrated the day before Valentine’s Day, as a way for women to celebrate their friendships with their female friends. Essentially it means Valentine’s Day for your gals. (It’s right there in the name).



So, since I don’t have a valentine, I’m contemplating whether or not I should buy those expensive woollies red heart balloons (which are like $30 EACH) for my mum.


But hey! You can’t put a price on love, right?


Well..certainly not your mum!





References used -





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