About 62% of Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, according to the History Channel. What many may not know is the holiday of heart-shaped candy and romance has a much darker history.
One of the bloodiest “celebrations” of the holiday is found in the pages of American mob history. On February 14 1929 Al Capone allegedly took revenge on George “Bugsy” Moran. Seven men were gunned down in Chicago that day. It became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – but it is NOT the origin of the holiday.
Lupercalia was celebrated by the ancient Romans. This three day festival (Feb 13-15) was a naked, drunken festival where goats and dog were sacrificed and women were whipped with the skins from the same animals (which was believed to make the women fertile). Men and women would draw names to be matched up for the length of the lewd celebration. It is assumed that the name “Valentine” became associated with the erotic event after two Christian men bearing that name were martyred on the 14th of February in the year 3 A.D. Eventually (200 years later) the Catholic Church adopted the date and holiday (removing the pagan elements of sacrifices and nudity). It is also believed that the name for the holiday is partially derived from the French celebration of Galatin’s Day, which translates to “lover of women” (history source: NPR).
Valentine’s cards can be traced back to 1913 when Hallmark began churning out its greeting cards. Today the holiday is expected to take in almost $19 billion (National Retail Federation/US News), with men spending an average $142 and women shelling out $96.
To help both guys and gals with ideas on how to best keep that spending in line with the true origins and history of the holiday, tune in to second part of our story. There, we will gladly give suggestions for the more selective gift-giver.