Step aside pollution, because this week, LOVE is in the air! As you wait in line at CVS with your cheesy Hallmark card depicting a dog saying “I Ruff You,” you may be wondering how Valentine’s Day came to be. So let’s unpack this annual love fest!
According to our extensive research on Wikipedia, Valentine’s Day began as a feast honoring a couple of Christian martyrs, both named, you guessed it, Valentine. So what’s the love connection? Well, it would appear this annual potluck overlapped with another annual tradition in the middle of February – a pagan fertility festival.
Eventually, Valentine’s Day took on a new meaning as a day where lovers celebrate their, erhm, love, by trying to find reservations at overpriced restaurants and chowing down tiny pieces of chocolate from an organ-shaped box. But before you start groaning in anticipation of the upcoming cringe-a-thon, you should know that the history of this holiday is full of far cringier customs and traditions than exchanging giant stuffed teddy bears that will take up space in your closet for 3 years before you inevitably drop it off at Goodwill.
For example, the aforementioned infertility festival involved naked Roman men running through the streets throwing the skin of recently-sacrificed animals at woman as a term of endearment. How romantic!
One medieval poet suggested that Valentine’s Day was a bird-watching holiday, where the first bird a woman saw would indicate the type of man she’d marry. Unsurprisingly, a goldfinch meant a rich man.
Have you ever received a “Vinegar Valentine?” Let’s hope not! This was an anti-Valentine’s Day card that Victorians would use to ward off unwanted advances from people crushing on them. Our favorite burn?
And the award for bizarrely sweetest Valentine’s Day tradition goes to the men of Wales, who would exchange intricately-carved wooden spoons for their desired lovers. Did they prefer big spoons or little spoons? To each is own!
So this next Valentine’s Day, as you’re curled up with your partner and obligatory watching ‘The Notebook,' remember that your day could’ve been a whole helluva lot weirder if you were in love in other eras. Good luck with your chocolate digestion!