North Texas Daily

Valentine’s Day’s dark roots

Valentine’s Day’s dark roots

Valentine’s Day’s dark roots
February 13
00:35 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

Like many holidays, Valentine’s Day has modern origins in Rome dating back to when the Catholic Church whitewashed Pagan holidays to make them more Christian-friendly.

Valentine’s Day covers Lupercalia, a day when ancient Romans would celebrate wolf mating season. According to legend, Remus and Romulus, the twin brothers who founded Rome, were thrown into the wild as infants and nursed by a mother wolf until a shepherd couple found them and raised them.

Every year, on the ides of February, Roman priests would sacrifice goats and make whips from their skin. Virgin women would come outside to be lashed by these whips, which were supposed to increase the chances of fertility, said Michael Wise, a history professor who has presented on Lupercalia in the past.

“These priests would run through town on sort of this mad dash,” Wise said. “This took place for centuries until the Christianization of Rome.”

The sanitized holiday celebrated Saint Valentine. The most popular story being he was executed for marrying soldiers, who by law weren’t allowed to get married. Variations of the legend include him trying to convert the emperor to Christianity after his arrest before miraculously healing his jailer’s daughter.

Over time, the holiday grew more and more around the idea of courtship and romantic love. Wise said the idea of sending cards and candies dates back to the Victorian era. Little remains of the old Lupercalia celebration.

“The commonality is the idea of love,” Wise said. “Obviously people aren’t flogging each other with goat-skin whips. It might freshen things up after giving out so many Hallmark cards over the years.”

The modern, heavily advertised, celebration of Valentine’s Day can put pressure on relationships, said educational psychology lecturer Julie Leventhal who teaches a courtship and marriage class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“You start to see boxes of chocolates, adorable stuffed bears and a major increase in all things heart-related as soon as the day after New Year’s,” she said in a press release. “All those sources tend to put the pressure on and encourage others to celebrate the day in order to make it different than every other day.”

On the other hand, Leventhal said the perception of how Valentine’s Day affects singles is overblown. Singles could spend the night anywhere between alone watching sad movies to going out with their single friends.

“There are a lot of people in between who celebrate it in a more mild way or simply treat it as any other day,” Leventhal said in the release.

Students hold modern Valentine’s Day in mixed esteem. Some, like interdisciplinary studies junior Elizabeth Davila, said couples should always be affectionate.

“I think it’s just like any other day,” Davila said. “I think it’s kind of stupid to pick one day where you should be nice to that person. It shouldn’t be that one day where you do all these nice things for them because you kind of have to.”

Others, like English junior Kristen Sinatra, think it’s a sweet holiday.

“I like what it stands for,” Sinatra said. “There are times when people aren’t able to show their feelings as much as they’d like to.”

She wasn’t excited about the notion of goatskin whips, however.

“Let’s just say that I’m rather happy that we have something else to think about when it comes to that particular day,” she said.

Feature photo: A Tuesday afternoon at Target on Loop 288 shows full shelves of chocolate waiting to be bought. An estimated of 35 million boxes of chocolate will be sold this Valentine’s day. Photo by Kristen Watson / Staff Photographer 

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