Before Valentine’s Day Became Romantic

February 13th By: Emily Morris

Although an obligatory time for love, Valentine’s Day cannot solely be accredited to Hallmark. A day devoted to acts of love, red and match-making actually began hundreds of years before Hallmark’s first official mushy card in early 1900s (Amazing Women in History). Modern commonalities of Valentine’s Day have been innovated throughout the past centuries, but the holiday existed far before its commercialization. Even before heartfelt handmade trinkets and cards, the middle of February was celebrated by various other cultures.  

The Origin of Hitting on Women, Literally

Originally, Roman men celebrated February’s midpoint by hitting on women, literally. Following hunting excursions, men would return and often use their animal caracusses as a type of bat with the women in their area. Despite the focus on aggression instead of romance, women were accustomed to the event and even believed the hits would encourage fertility, which would be useful later (NPR).   

According NPR to, lottery would be devised to begin the matchmaking process of the celebration. Men selected names of women from a jar; if their selection seemed suitable, the ‘couple’ could continue advances for the rest of the celebration.

Depiction of Romans celebrating Lupercalia or what is now known as Valentine’s Day
http://National Geographic

As far as, the term Valentine, the Romans have a possibly even more brutal history. Valentine was actually a priest, whom the Romans executed on Feb. 14 due to his Christian beliefs. Later the Catholic Church attempted a memorial of Valentine by naming the day St. Valentine’s Day, and pagan beliefs were meant to be absent of the holiday, according to The History Channel.  

The Beginning of Modern Love Stories

The shocking history of our day dedicated to love blurred over the years with the help of romantic writers. Shakespeare was one of the first footholds in transforming Valentine’s Day; other authors followed his steps, making the day heartwarming. The general public responded by giving thoughtful items: sweets, crafts and flowers (NPR).

Esther Howland took the first slice of the pre-made card industry in America after being inspired by a Valentine’s Day card a friend sent her. Then Howland eventually erected a company to replicate and distribute cards similar to what her friend has given her (Amazing Women in History). Hallmark, then, sweeped the industry off its feet in 1913 and made modern Valentine’s Day achievable for the hopeless romantic and the tongue-tied writer (NPR).

One of Esther Howland’s Valentine’s Day cards.
http://Amazing Women in History
A Hallmark card from the early 1900s.

Far from its origins, Valentine’s Day will continue to live on as it processes the capability for a human necessity: love. Commercialization may have diminished the personalization of Valentine’s Day to some extent, but the holiday has evolved extensively since the Roman traditions. Whether love is, or has ever been the focus of Valentine’s Day, is entirely up to each individual.

Featured Photo: