There are hearts everywhere you go, roses bursting to and fro, people stirring up sweetness and chocolate flooding the streets. Here in Mexico, February 14th is not solely known as Valentine’s Day among lovers but as the “Day of Love and Friendship” (Dia del Amor y de la Amistad).
People seem to be in a mystic trance, lending them a puppy-dog face that sees the world through rose colored glasses, yet what is behind this overwhelmingly sweet day? Believe me, it’s not all “hunky-dory.” Despite what many “anti-Valentine” folk may think, this day is not solely a creation of “Hallmark”…it has a dark, carnal, and tortuous past: The Lupercal Festivals.
In ancient Rome, these festivities celebrated fertility and sexuality and were held on Feb. 15th (curious coincidence?). The people would gather at the Lupercal cave (later called Ruminal in honor of Romulo and Remo) at the base of Mount Palatino and, according to tradition, it was in this place where the Faun Lupercus took the form of a she-wolf, and suckled the twins Romulo and Remo, the founders of Rome. The tradition says here there was a fig tree whose roots had held the basket where the twins Romulo and Remo lay. This was a festival filled with music and debauchery. Nevertheless, this is only one side of the coin.
On the other hand, the name of St. Valentine was given in honor of a priest who married couples despite a prohibition against this in 270 A.D. The history states at that time Roman Emperor Claudio II published an order prohibiting marriage between young lovers as, in his opinion, single men were better soldiers since they had fewer “ties” to family and would fully put themselves into their profession and Rome needed more soldiers for its Army. Nevertheless, the Emperor found out about what Priest Valentine was doing and sent for him to come to the palace. The Emperor jailed Valentine and ordered he be executed on February 14, of 270 A.D., thereby making him a martyr. From there stems the idea of St. Valentine being the patron saint of lovers.
So, we put together “A” and “B”, and then in 1840 Esther A. Howland began selling the first postcards (known as “Valentines”) in celebration of St. Valentine and – there we have it, a Feb. 14th that is a little less or more romantic than we thought.