In My Brain Today: Who Invented Valentine’s Day, Anyway?!

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By Leslie Lindsay

This was a question that my 2nd grader posed to me in the school drop-off line this morning.  And it got me thinking…I knew there was a St. Valentine who did…what…good deeds? But of that I wasn’t even sure.   How then, did the day become such a romantic commercialized holiday?  I told her I would do a little research on the subject while she was at school and report back.  (see, this learning thing…it lasts forever).

According to an article by NPR today, the origins of the cute, cozy, lovey holiday can be attributed to the ancient Romans.  Why not?  They seem to have started everything else.  Seems in those very early days of  Roman culture, men would ‘hit on women’ by doing just that–hitting them.  It was a brutal way of saying ‘I love you,’ but well…the theory was beating woman made them more fertile, and after all, populating the empire was of utmost importance. 

In another theory of Roman love, men would pull a woman’s name at random from a jar in a sort of matchmaking lottery.  The couple would then be…uh, hooked up…and if the connection was a good one, well they stayed that way even longer.

How’s that for a Latin lover?

The ancient Romans were also responible for the modern-day moniker of St. Valentine’s Day.  The then-Pope  (let’s not get into that) had a couple of guys executed on February 14th in the 3rd century A.D. both by the name of Valentine.  This supposed marytardom was honored by the Catholic Church.  A drawing depicts the death of St. Valentine — one of them, anyway. The Romans executed two men by that name on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D.

(A drawing depicts the death of St. Valentine — one of them, anyway. The Romans executed two men by that name on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Image source: NPR.org)

Later, Shakespeare and Chaucer made the holiday a little more lovey-dovey with their plays and poems and short-stories.  Paper Valentine cards were made and handed out to one’s beloved on the day, thus deeming the day of love in Medieval times. 

Later, in 1913 Hallmark rolled out the first commercialized cards.  Other merchandise soon followed suit…all for own’s suitors. 

As for me, I don’t quite get it.  The daily trivia question at my favorite coffee shop was, “How many married couples will celebrate Valentine’s Day?”  a) 25% b) 50% or c) 65%? 

I answered, 25%.  I was chastised, “Gee Leslie, you gotta have more faith in the institution than that.” 

Oh, really? 

Yes, seems the answer is 65% of all married couples will celebrate Valentines Day.  I think I am lucky if I get a card. 

Nope, I am not bitter.  It’s just that over the years, I have become to realize that love it not about a day.  It’s about the way we conduct our lives everyday, all year.  And so I am off to see the cheesy Nicholas Sparks movie this morning…because a little eye candy will do my Roman Gaelic heart some good.  And then later, I will volunteer my time at the Kindergarten Valentines’ Day Party, because it’s really about sharing our heart for others. 

Happy Valentines’ Day. 

References:

http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day

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