A friend and I were struck by the multitude of advertisements for Valentine’s Day: flowers, jewelry, edible bouquets, heart-shaped pizzas, dinners, dating sites, etc. “It’s a Hallmark Holiday,” he said, “but one that has been around for a long time.”
That is an understatement. Valentine’s Day in some form has been celebrated as far back as the Middle Ages. Printed valentines began in 1415, and today over 1 billion valentines are exchanged each year. It is estimated that people spend $20 billion/year on Valentine’s Day, buying 220 million roses and 35 million chocolate candy-filled hearts among other tokens of love. Over 62% of Americans celebrate the holiday in one form or another.
According to the History Channel, the origins of the holiday began with Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival. The priests would sacrifice a goat, strip its hide and dip it in blood, then touch the women and crops to increase their fertility. Also as part of the festival, women would place their names in an urn then bachelors would reach in to select a partner. At the end of the 5th century, the Catholic Church renamed the holiday St. Valentine’s Day, and the mid-February date was chosen to correspond with the birds’ mating season. The holiday of romance has persisted since then.
Whether you celebrate with goat’s blood or a fancy dinner with goat’s cheese, I hope that you have a full heart today. In these antagonistic times, we could all use a little more love in our life. Choose a valentine or a total stranger, but commit to spread some love today.