By: Sumaiya Nasir | February 14, 2022
Photo Credit: History.com
Valentine’s Day is the universal excuse for businesses to mass-produce pink and red heart-shaped “things,” ranging from chocolates, cards, stuffed pillows, and toys, meant to express one’s unequivocal love for another. In less cynical words, it is a holiday that celebrates love, in all shapes and forms, whether that be by having a romantic evening with a significant other or having a girl’s day.
The true origin of Valentine’s Day is a much-debated issue. The earliest suggested origin is the Roman festival, Lupercalia, which celebrated both the coming of Spring and female fertility. The similarities between the holidays end there – men would sacrifice goats and dogs at these festivals and proceed to whip women with the hides of the animals. Women lined up to be whipped because it was believed that it would improve fertility.
According to more contemporary mythology, St. Valentine was a Christian martyr, for whom the holiday can be attributed to. In an early account, St. Valentine of Rome was jailed and later executed for defying the Holy Roman Emperor. There are some accounts that St. Valentine restored his jailer’s blind daughter’s vision, with whom he was friends. Later additions to this tale claim he wrote a letter to his jailer’s daughter, professing his love for her, signing off as “Your Valentine.” And thus, the highly commercialized holiday hidden under the guise of celebrating love was born!
Historians have reported that the earliest exchange of “valentines” dates to the fourteenth century. Valentine’s Day didn’t become a commercial holiday until the mid-1800s, when the first valentine-printed cards were sold. Hallmark began printing Valentine’s Day-themed cards in 1913, popularizing the exchange of love letters on the romantic day.
The Feast of Saint Valentine, Lupercalia, Valentine’s Day – like it or not, the universal day of love will continue to make its annual return centuries after its genesis.