The Sort-of Sexy History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is either the bane or boon of many romantic relationships. But why do we celebrate it and where did it come from? We at the Condom Depot Learning Center decided to take a look into our patron saint and find the sort-of sexy origins!

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

hith-valentine

Valentine’s Day draws its name from St. Valentine, a saint in the Roman Catholic tradition. But the truth is that there are a number of St. Valentines out there– two of which are traditionally revered on February 14th, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni.

There are a lot of legends about these saints but very little facts. Not all of them have to do with love or romance, and not all of them are verifiable. In fact, the hagiography of St. Valentine is pretty sparse. We know that he was a martyr for the early Church. Valentine of Rome was martyred in 496 AD and Valentine of Terni was 197 AD. Since we know so little of them, they are both kind of blurred together in their series of legends and due to that, they traditionally shared the feast day of February 14th.

Many of the legends tie Valentine to a single person– the blind daughter of his jailer. Often, Valentine is said to have been jailed either by the local government or by the emperor of Rome himself. While awaiting execution, he sometimes heals this young lady of her condition. Other times, he falls in love with her and leaves her a letter before his beheading signed, “Your Valentine,” no doubt leading to the tradition we have of calling our sweethearts our Valentines on this auspicious day.

Not So Sexyvalentinesdayheader

And yes– one thing even the hagiography can agree on was that St. Valentine was beheaded. Not very romantic. But if you’re interested in seeing that detached head, it is in a box in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, adorned with a flower crown. That’s a picture of it up there.

Other relics of either St. Valentine can be found in other churches all over Europe. A head in a box might not be a great Valentine’s Day gift, but our Valentine’s Love Box, which is filled to the brim with condoms, should make a better impression. Or maybe a vibrator? Either way, this Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be that dangerous for you. Check out some tips on how to date safely this Valentine’s Day.

How did St. Valentine end up in jail in the first place? Most stories claim that he was conducting illegal marriages for Christians. That’s right. There was a time when someone declared Christians getting married was illegal. Imagine that! Someone declaring a certain type of marriage between consenting adults illegalHow quaint!

St. Valentine’s Day

mhAQ4fu

Now, most of what we do know of the actual Valentine’s Day comes down from legend. And all of these legends come from a very peculiar source: Geoffrey Chaucer. The 14th century saw the biggest upswing of Valentine’s Day celebrations which have lead to our modern interpretation of the holiday.

This is mostly in thanks to his poem, A Parlement of Foules, which describes a dream where birds meet up on St. Valentine’s Day and pair off to breed, calling in spring. Many of the Valentine’s Day traditions discussed in this poem weren’t present in literature or histories which pre-date Chaucer, which gives us good reason to believe that he made them up.

Whips and Chains?

37

Some Valentine’s Day traditions have taken on their own forms of celebrations all over the world. But romantic traditions around mid-February have a long history predating Catholicism. A celebration local to Rome called Lupercalia was centered on health and fertility, chasing away the dreary darkness of winter and preparing for the sowing of spring seeds– in both the ground and uteruses.

This would culminate in the whipping of women’s hands by naked youths, and the sacrifice of dogs and goats to honor the she-wolf who suckled the founders of Rome. Was this a precursor to beloved items like our Lover’s Prisoner Kit? Maybe. But it really had less to do with sex and more to do with encouraging fertility.  Some legends say that couples were paired up for mating by pulling names out of a jar, although many historians think this could very well just be some Church-induced, anti-pagan propaganda. Read more about sex magic.

Many scholars don’t think that Valentine’s Day is a direct descendant of Lupercalia seeing as they don’t really share any of the same customs or festivities apart from happening around the same time of year. Both could simply be a coincidence of pure human adorability. After all, who doesn’t want to shake off the winter blues with a little love making? And possibly a little whipping?

Want to know more? Here’s the historical reasoning behind your favorite Valentine’s Day gifts, and this is our Valentine’s Day Article Hub for more romance. Hate Valentine’s Day? Here’s a History of Masturbation instead.

[Some images copyright www.stvalentin.org.]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: