Valentine’s Day is more than the cellophane-wrapped roses, the diabetic inducing chocolates and the ostentatious prix-fixe menus. Named for martyrs, it’s thought that Valentine’s Day took on a Christian emphasis under Pope Gelasius in A.D. 498 to purify – or shift focus from – the Roman festival Lupercalia.
Lupercalia was an annual pagan celebration held on Feb. 15 that remained popular well into the fifth century A.D. – at least 150 years after Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
According to HistoryChannel.com, the festival involved goat hides, blood and crop fields, but also a lottery in which young women placed their names in an urn and bachelors drew names out at random. The couple paired up for a year, unions that sometimes led to marriage.
Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. The name “Valentine,” itself is derived from valens which means worthy.
Here are a few contemporary Valentine’s Day concepts explained:
Contrary to popular belief, Hallmark did not “invent” Valentine’s Day cards. It was fashionable to give Valentine’s Day cards as early as the 1700’s. The woman credited with “branding” Valentine’s Day was Esther Howland, whose ornate cads were sold in the United States starting in the 1840’s. Hallmark didn’t start selling Valentine’s Day until 1913.
Necco made the first batch of “Sweethearts” conversation hearts in 1902 and began updating the sayings in the 1990s. Do you remember “Fax Me?”
The Price of Love
According to the National Retail Foundation, Valentine’s Day is expected to generate $14.1 billion in retail sales in the United States. The number is down from last year’s $14.7 billion.
The average consumer is expected to spend $103 on Valentine’s Day gifts, meals and entertainment. Men spend twice as much on Valentine’s Day than women do.
The birds and the bees
According to the condom company Durex, condom sales are highest around Valentine’s Day which are 20 percent to 30 percent higher than usual. Still, more at home pregnancy tests are sold in March than in any other month.
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of love and beauty. At first, Cupid wasn’t the cherubic, happy angel that we think of. In his original form, he was mischievous and sometimes dark god of love and desire.
Cupid fell in love with a mortal, Psyche. Cupid was sent by his mother, Venus, to punish Psyche for her beauty. Instead, he fell in love with her.