The origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded by flowery sentiment because it was in fact super bloody and more like a bad day in Westeros.
Of all the Hallmark Holidays, Valentine’s Day is the worst. Single people are never so screwed (not literally) as they are on V-Day. On regular festive occasions like Thanksgiving, your Aunt Tina is there to remind you to sit at the “single, unmarried table.” But on Valentine’s Day, the entire universe conspires to remind you of that. And it would be of some consolation if there actually were a single, unmarried table to sit at, but there isn’t. There is nowhere to sit and nowhere to go. You are a window shopper in a world full of no loitering zones. Like a Facebook friend’s first-born baby, there is no escaping Valentine’s Day.
The commercialization and single-shaming aspects of Valentine’s Day aren’t even my least favorite things about it. No friends. The worst part of Valentine’s Day is its origin story. (Spoiler alert.)
You’d think the story behind the “most romantic day of the year” would live in Romeo and Juliet/Samson and Delilah/Bey and Jay territory. But the history of Valentine’s Day is more like a choose your own adventure for sad endings to Saintly lives.
Valentine’s Day Is More Like A ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ For Sad Saintly Lives.
First of all, when you partake in Valentine’s Day, know that you are celebrating a Saint Day. Nearly every day of the year has a Saint attached to it. Most of them performed miracles and died in terrible ways. Most of us don’t pay attention to Saint days, but in Italy, if your name is Valentino, February 14th would be your second birthday of sorts. You would celebrate with cake, gifts, hugs and a call from grandma. This makes me sad that I don’t have a Saint name because I am a birthday whore.
Saint Valentine is said to be a hybrid of two, and maybe more, pious, ancient gentlemen named Valentine. Catholics needed a Saint for February 14, and he, as an ambiguous, two for one deal, seemed like a good option. More than facts, the stories behind St. Valentine are known as “legends.” He was a Roman priest practicing in la Citta eternal, and he was also a Bishop in Umbria. Roman Valentine got into trouble for performing Christian marriages in a Pagan world, while Umbrian V healed people while serving Jesus.
One of the Valentines ended up in a Roman prison circa 270 AD, which wasn’t the best place for a Christian to be at that time. Emperor Claudius II took a liking to V, because he was charming, of course. But Claudius’ affection waned when the smooth-talking priest tried to push his Jesus agenda on the Pagan Emperor. Love did not conquer all for Valentine, and he was soon bludgeoned and beheaded. And now, we eat red candy hearts on Feb 14th to honor his spilled blood (just kidding, but sort of?).
Some say the Catholic Church chose Mr. Valentine for his nebulous past and picked Feb 14th for Saint Valentine’s day because it conveniently fell right in the middle of a much more exciting Pagan holiday they wanted to overshadow: Lupercalia.
The real origins Valentine’s Day Is That It’s About Wolves
Lupercalia was celebrated from February 13th to the 15th each year as a way to ward off evil spirits and purify Ancient Rome. It honored the mighty she-wolf, who, according to the myth, suckled Romulus and Remus when they were wee abandoned babies. Romulus would go on to kill his brother and found Rome. The she-wolf was, and still is, a big deal in the Eternal City. She is a symbol of motherhood, protection, goodness, resilience, and ferocity, but foremost, she is a symbol of Rome.
I’d like to propose a trade back: Valentine’s Day for Lupercalia. A citywide, celebratory spring cleaning with party people dressed up as she-wolves sound a lot more fun than eating a strained, expensive meal in a crowded restaurant with dozens of other couples.
On February 14th, if you respond to, “Happy Valentine’s Day” with, “HAPPY WOLF DAY AAAWOOOOOOO!” you are the hero we all need.
Wolves > cherubs.
In San Valentino, February 14 Is Their Festival of Cuckolds
Have you heard of the Italian town called San Valentino? My Valentine’s Day conditioned brain thinks of it and sees old, cobblestoned streets dotted with pink paper hearts. They’re flanked by ancient stone buildings with red Cupid banners hung from the windows. The smell of chocolate perfumes the air and couples young and old are gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. If San Valentino were actually like this, I would celebrate Valentine’s Day forever.
Yes, it’s a charming Italian town, beautiful and quaint, but residents there don’t celebrate love. In fact, every year, San Valentino hosts an ancient festival called Festa del Cornuti (Festival of the Cuckolds) and parades men with adulterous wives through the streets to be taunted. The next time someone says the phrase, “romance, Italian-style,” please think of this.
Catholics might have picked the date for St. Valentine, but it was 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer who first associated it with romantic love. In his poem, “Parlement of Foules,” written during the courtly love era, Chaucer writes about birds choosing their mates on Valentine’s Day. If you don’t already loathe Valentine’s Day, and you’re a masochist, attempt to read the poem in its original Old English, won’t you?
Most people know nothing about Valentine’s Day except that it’s a day for romance and love, and despite my gripes about its history, I’m fine with those aspects of it. Consumerism aside, a day dedicated to love is never a bad thing. I just wish there were more of them.