A CELEBRATION of love, lust and Lindt, or is it just another Hallmark holiday?
Each year on Valentine’s Day, 14 February, hordes of star-crossed young’uns and wedded veterans celebrate their love by rushing off to the shops to buy the biggest bunches of flowers, the most delectable-looking boxes of chocolates and (on occasion) the slinkiest lingerie.
But what’s the reasoning behind all this madness? Does Valentine’s Day claim roots entrenched deep in some lost romantic tale or is the holiday simply the brainchild of one particularly ambitious greeting card company?
History of Valentine’s Day
As it turns out, the historic origins of this pseudo-holiday remain largely mysterious, with attribution rather shakily granted to an ancient celebration and a Roman Catholic saint.
As the story goes, Valentine’s Day’s beginnings are believed to be linked to the pagan fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, an age-old tradition comprising of animal sacrifices and a sacrificial feast.
The occasion, which took place on the ides of February (15 February), encouraged the devout to cut thongs from the skins of the animals and run through the town striking the people in the crowds.
It is said that women and young girls lined up to accept their lashes, as they guaranteed fertility and eased child birth pains.
With the advent and subsequent growth of Christianity, public performances of pagan rites were outlawed, thus leading to the festival’s decline in popularity and, what many believe, was a Christian effort to undermine the annual highlight.
Enter the story of Saint Valentine. Aside from his name, the date of his execution, 14 February, and the location of his execution (Via Flaminia - a popular road in ancient Rome), little else is known about this wonder except that he inspired one of the most popular holidays of present-day.
Some legends claim that Valentine became a martyr thanks to his defiance of the Emperor Claudius II’s decree that forbid young army-worthy men from marrying.
Others claim that the saint was immortalised for his attempts to save young souls from the harsh Roman prisons; in fact, some sources claim that his love letter written to the jailer’s daughter – it was signed “From Your Valentine” – is the most genuine point of the holiday’s origin.
Though, in all honesty, most people attribute Valentine’s Day’s existence to capitalism, chocolatiers and card companies (it is said that a 150 million cards are exchanged over Valentine’s Day every year).