Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday to celebrate your significant other and shower them with gifts and a chance to show them – and others – just how much you love them. The holiday can be a wonderful time for those with a significant other to celebrate their relationship and their love for each other. After all, Valentine’s Day is all about showing your love for someone, right?
That wasn’t always the case during most of human history, however. Some historians and anthropologists theorize that in ancient times, Romans celebrated the holiday as Lupercalia, a holiday celebrated on February 15th to rid the city of evil spirits and to purify it, a ritual that would release health and fertility into the city of Rome and to all of its inhabitants. A sacrifice was made to the gods, followed by a feast and celebrations throughout the city.
Although there tends to be some confusion over exactly how the holiday was celebrated (seeing as there weren’t many accurate and legitimate sources from the height of its popularity among Romans), there seems to be a general consensus that after the sacrifice – usually of two goats and a dog – two young men were anointed with the blood from the sacrifices and were meant to act happy and joyous after the anointment. Following that, naked men covered in oil would run through the streets attempting to whip people (usually women) with thongs – a ritual meant to bestow the women with fertility and good health as a way of helping them to get pregnant and give birth.
As Christianity slowly became a more popular religion and was finally recognized as the official religion of Rome, Lupercalia and its popularity had begun to fade away. Eventually the holiday was no longer celebrated and was replaced by a holiday celebrating the Virgin Mary – a holiday that didn’t last very long and was eventually replaced. After the execution of two separate men by the name of Valentine on the same day (February 14th), the Catholic Church and the Pope recognized February 14th as Saint Valentine’s Day as a way of remembering and honoring the two martyrs.
Over the centuries, Valentine’s Day has become associated with love and affection, and was turned into a commercial holiday in the eighteenth century as a way for businesses to capitalize on the traditions and holidays being celebrated. Since its commercialization, the holiday has transformed into what we now know it as – a holiday meant for giving people chocolates, roses, engagement rings, and other such gifts as a way of materialistically showing love and appreciation for your partner and your relationship with your partner.
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As an recent college graduate who studied media studies and anthropology in college, Briana Maddox enjoys learning about different cultures, traditions, holidays, historical figures, experiences, and opinions. With a vested interest in sharing such learning experiences, Briana created Life & Anthropology in the hopes of helping other people gain a better understanding and working knowledge of such topics.