The History of Valentine's Day to Make Us All Chill Out About V Day

by Emily Tackett

Being a generation of exhibitionists, a holiday celebrating romantic partnership inevitably creates a tumultuous landscape on social media. From couples showcasing their bliss to singles overcompensating with Galentine’s dinners or Netflix and wine, or even lone-wolves reassuring us that they prefer solitude, everyone is out to justify their relationship status on Valentine’s Day. Emily’s Law of Valentine’s Day: For every sappy relationship post there’s an equal and opposite pet post with a caption reading, “This is the only valentine I need!”  

No judgement either way. I’ve committed both sap-tastic, blog-length instagram posts and proclaimed anti-Valentine sentiments. When I was in middle school, aggressive acne and Juno-esque fashion deterred potential suitors. When forced to acknowledge that other classmates were enjoying happy relationships, arcade dates, and sharing iPod earbuds on the bus on February 14th, I did what any preteen girl would do (or at least what any preteen girl without a social media account that allowed me to assure my followers that, “no, all I really need is pizza!” would do) -- I mourned the death of love by wearing a Mennonite-length black skirt, black Abercrombie tank, and a black neck scarf from my mom’s flight attendant uniform. I was convinced that all hopeful romantics would be forced back to reality when in the presence of my dark and gritty visage.

So, whether you’re acting out in insanely cliche middle school fashion like pre-teen me, dizzy-with-bliss in love, practicing your post V-day breakup, single and never better, or single and pissed about it, here’s one thing that will help us all chill out. The origins of Valentine's Day are pretty twisted and may relieve the pressure we’re all feeling to be overtly content with our relationship statuses.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the holiday, but a good place to start is ancient Rome, where from February 13th to 15th, Roman men would whip women with the hides of sacrificed dogs and goats. Women would line up for this dead-dog whipping, believing the act would increase their fertility. Can you say swoon?

During this same celebration, drunk and naked young men would also take part in a matchmaking lottery in which they would draw names of women from a jar to be *cough* paired with *cough*. Honestly, you can experience a similar ritual in a modern bar at last call.

This festival was called Lupercalia, but historians believe it developed into what we now celebrate as Valentine’s Day after two executions and a Catholic intervention. See, Emperor Claudius II executed two guys, both named Valentine, on Feb. 14. The Catholic Church honored their martyrdom with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day. Later, Pope Gelasius I combined St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia in an effort to stop the drunken hide slapping ritual, giving us what we now know as Valentine’s day.

So while you’re enjoying your candy and flowers, your Netflix and pizza, your dating apps, and your “I’m happy being single” memes, remember the true unsung heroes of Valentine’s are the street dogs of Rome who were sacrificed to give you this day of love. #NeverForgetTheStreetDogsOfRome #GodBless