The dark origins of Valentine’s Day

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: 14th February is marked as the universal day of love. Where lovers shower their better halves with flowers, chocolates and presents which are meant to symbolize their love as well as the fact that they have fallen prey to consumerism. However, it turns out that the origins of Valentine’s Day are not only murky but also reveal a dark history. Here is what you should know about the history of Valentine’s Day.

Most historians agree that the origins of the day are rooted in both Christianity and Ancient Roman tradition. But who is the patron saint against whom the whole day is celebrated around? That’s what is unknown. As per records, there are at least three different saints called Valentine and ironically, all three were executed on Valentine’s Day. Not a very fun thing to celebrate, is it?

Who were these saints and why were they executed?

As per Christian belief, the first Saint is believed to have been executed by Emperor Claudius II who had decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families and so, he made marriages for young men illegal. But our resident Saint was all for love and continued to perform marriages for the young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, the emperor ordered that he be put to death. Others believe, Valentine was a prisoner who fell in love with a jailor’s daughter. Before his execution, he allegedly sent her a love letter which was signed, “from your Valentine” a line that, of course, stuck. The third possible Valentine died because of love for religion rather than romantic love when he refused to renounce his religion.

The Ancient Roman/pagan history of Valentine’s Day isn’t any better. It marked the celebration Lupercalia, a fertility festival. To begin the festival, Roman priests would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf. The priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. Then, they would strip the goat’s hide into strips and dip it into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets. In the streets, women lined up to be whipped with the blood soaked strips believing that it would make them fertile. That’s not all. The festival also included a ritual where women would have to offer themselves up in a lottery for drunk naked men to be “coupled” with the duration of the festivities. Not too romantic, if you ask us.

Can’t seem to enjoy Valentine’s Day the same after knowing its dark history? Use it as an excuse to get out of trouble with your other half!

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