When people speak about Valentine’s Day, it is often referred to as a Hallmark holiday, created by the card company for commercial reasons. Men think so because they’re forced to buy embarrassing gifts like pink teddy bears (or embarrass themselves by picking out underwear at Victoria’s Secret), and all single girls think so because they’re not getting said stuffies. Though V-Day has its haters, there are some people out there who really dig the idea behind a day of perfect love. But whether you love it or loathe it, very few know how, exactly, the holiday originated.
Get ready for legend time! Valentine was a third century Roman priest who — yes, it’s true — was a bit of a Cupid, or so the story goes. He defied a law put into effect by Emperor Claudius II that stated no young soldiers were allowed to marry because being wife and childless made them better fighters.What a tool! Valentine thought this was outrageous, and set about making military men happy by marrying them in secret. When he was ratted out (who would do such a thing?!) Claudius had him killed.
Although it’s never been confirmed, some say that Valentine was also responsible for the first tangible ‘Valentine’ as well. He is said to have fallen in love with a young girl while imprisoned, and, just before his death, drafted her a letter signed ‘From Your Valentine.’
Makes sense, and yes, I did have a bit of swoon at the sheer romance of the situation. But then, hearing how the tradition has evolved, I became disenchanted with the whole Valentine’s Day myth all over again.
Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and to Roman founders Romulus and Remus, was celebrated around February 15th. Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where then-infant Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf ,or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification (poor Lassie no come home). Then, they’d skin the goat into bloody strips and slap the women with its raw hide. Believe it or not, the Italian women actually liked this repulsive ceremony because they actually believed they’d have better luck getting pregnant in the upcoming year.
But I digress. After cleaning up from their animalistic adventure , the women would all put their names in a huge urn, whereupon the entire city of Rome would turn into one giant Ben Flajnik-less episode of The Bachelor. The single city guys would choose a name and be paired for the year with his ‘chosen woman’. If he liked her after the year was up, they’d tie the knot. I’d hate to see what happens if the men didn’t choose his girlfriend of a year to be his bride, but I suspect they’d look a lot like Casey Shteamer did when she got booted from the show this week.
I guess when you compare the Valentine’s Day of yesteryear — raw goathide slapping, pooch sacrifices and all — our modern day definition really doesn’t seem so bad. Attached girls get roses and candy, single girls get together and let their girl power over a glass (or bottle) of champagne.
We all know that real love exists beyond one silly day out of 364 anyway, so why can’t we be happy that someone cares enough about us to buy that silly pink teddy bear (or risque pink teddy)? Whether someone expresses their feelings in a card, through a toy, through acts or through words, love is still love. Appreciate it.
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About the Author: Laura Schreffler is a former New York Daily News columnist who left the world of celebrity behind to focus on what makes her happiest — love and travel. She is the creator of LoveTrekker.com — a website devoted to these two passions that she fondly calls “looking for love in all the right places.” In her spare time she likes to play matchmaker for her friends, dream about her next vacation and gaze at photographs of Taylor Kitsch. For more advice on love, relationships, and happiness, check out http://lovetrekker.com & her book "Internet Dating 101". And follow her here at Happiness Series with her weekly blog about finding love.