The bizarre history behind Valentine’s Day

Paige Blakemore, Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day is the holiday that couples adore and single people loathe. Before Mariah Carey can even hit the final note in “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” department stores and supermarkets are putting out candy hearts, chocolate boxes, teddy bears and pricy rose bouquets.  

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that 52 percent of Americans will celebrate and spend $26 billion, which is about $80 per person, in the U.S. on Valentine’s Day in 2023.  

While the holiday is viewed as a mostly sweet gesture today, its origins are as bizarre as they are questionable.  

 According to “NPR,” the exact origins of the infamous love day are hard to determine, but many historians agree that it is linked to a dark festival called Lupercalia in ancient Rome.

From Feb. 13-15, Romans would sacrifice animals and whip women with their hides, believing it would increase fertility. Men would then draw women’s names from a jar to couple with them for the remainder of the festivities, to put it lightly. 

During Lupercalia, on two separate occasions, two men, both by the name of Valentine, were executed on Feb. 14 by Emperor Claudius II. Prior to his death, one of the Valentines signed a heartbreaking goodbye to a woman that read, “From Your Valentine.”  

It was Catholic Pope Gelasius I who created Saint Valentine’s Day in 496 A.D. to honor both Christian martyrs and cease the pagan festival.  

 As time progressed, writers such as Shakespeare and Geoffery Chaucer, an English poet, helped romanticize and popularize the holiday.  

Valentine’s Day cards had been circulating throughout the Middle Ages, but it was during the 19th century when Esther Howland became the “Mother of the American Valentine,” as reported by “TIME.” Howland crafted intricate and aesthetic cards that later bloomed into the widespread Valentines that we know and love today.  

In 1913, Hallmark Cards began to mass produce their own Valentines and commercialize the holiday, forever altering the month of February.  

When asking GC students their thoughts on, and agenda for the upcoming holiday, many had differing opinions and plans.  

“I do think that it is a sweet holiday,” said Bethany Barron, senior psychology major. “However, even though I am in a relationship, I can see how it could be one that people who are single do not like. I don’t think we should look at it as just romantic love. It could be love for friends or family as well.” 

Some students said that they planned to spend the day with their Valentines or close friends. Others said they treated the holiday like just another day.  

“I think it can be fun if celebrated with positivity in mind, but I think it can also be pretty dangerous,” said Josh Wilson, sophomore economics major. “It’s important to remember that it is just like any other holiday, and there is no pressure.”  

Many felt the holiday is overrated and commercialized by big companies to get more profit out of consumers. 

“Why do we have to have a special holiday for people to love each other?” said Trinity Martin, freshman marketing major. “Maybe men should stop being trash these other 364 days of the year and show love every day.” 

 Whether you are pouring out pennies to spoil your significant other or partaking in promoting Singles Awareness Day, keep in mind the dark history and odd traditions that led us to what we now think of as Valentine’s Day.