As I stand here in my steamy shower lathering up with my favorite soap, I start thinking about the most stressful holiday for guys everywhere: Valentines Day. On this day we’re expected to step up our romance game and show our significant other how much they mean to us, in the hopes of getting lucky in return.
But how did all of this actually start in the first place?
The origins of this holiday aren’t certain, but it seems like a combination of the following stories, dating way back to the 3rd century. Keep reading to learn about the origins of Valentines Day and how it’s turned into the holiday as we know it today.
A Dark History
The ancient Roman fertility festival, the Feast of Lupercalia, was observed from February 13th to 15th. During this celebration, Roman men would sacrifice goats and dogs, and then take the hides of Billy and Fido and turn them into whips. It was believed that fertility and an easy pregnancy could be beaten into Roman women. So the men would get drunk, run through the streets naked, and whip any woman they passed. Some women would anxiously line up to await their fruitful beating.
Although this festival doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun for the ladies, it was common for both men and women at the time to be erotically whipped. Maybe this story is also the origin of S&M?
In addition to the annual whipping, there was also a matchmaking lottery where men drew names from a jar to be matched up with a lady for the duration of the festival. If the match was right, sometimes it would turn into something more, kind of like an ancient Roman Tinder!
A Lighter, but Still Dark Version
Another account discusses a Roman priest by the name of Valentine, who secretly performed weddings for Christian couples. When Roman Emperor Claudius II found out, he was pretty pissed since Christians were considered deviants for not believing in the Roman gods. Valentine was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually beheaded for his acts of love.
During Valentine’s imprisonment, it’s said that he healed a jailor’s daughter from blindness and left her a note signed, “From your Valentine”. Healing her blindness was his only saintly act, according to the Catholic Church. According to this history, Valentine’s Day marks the anniversary of the day that St. Valentine was recognized and honored by the Catholic church as a martyr, on February 14th, 269 A.D.
Some Romantic Poetry to Set the Mood
In the 14th century, a guy named Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem to celebrate the engagement of King Richard II of England, where he mentions the romance of St. Valentine’s Day. But he wasn’t referencing the history of the Saint in the previous story – he wrote about the romance of birds and how they happen to mate on February 14.
Then in a couple of Shakespeare’s plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet), he references the mating birds in Chaucer’s poem. He believes that meeting someone on the morning of Valentine’s Day means that you’re likely to marry them- just like the birds mate on this day, so do humans.
It’s a romantic idea, but I’m glad it’s just part of a story and not a real prophecy. Over the years I’ve met some single women at the bar in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day; let’s just say for most of them, I wish I hadn’t.
The Hallmark Holiday
Valentine’s Day only became a commercial holiday after J.C Hall, a teenager at the time, started Hallmark in the 19th Century. Hallmark sold the first Valentine’s Day cards in 1916.
Now Americans give over 190 million Valentine cards and spend over $18 billion dollars in gifts each year for their Valentines. You’ve got to give the kid credit for getting the ball rolling for one of the most celebrated holidays to date, by playing on the heartstrings of millions.
The Stress of Valentine's Day Today
When I was in the first grade, I made my first Valentine’s Day shoebox to collect valentines from all the kids in my class. As a 6-year old kid I remember how unfair it was to be pressured into giving cards to everyone in the class-even the mean kids.
Then when I was a teenager, the holiday became a little more serious. Still, a box of chocolates and some dandelions went a long way. Yeah, I know that dandelions are weeds, but I was poor and dumb, so don’t judge me. Apparently the girls I dated were dumb too, because they thought it was sweet.
Now that I’m a grown man, it’s harder to find the perfect combination of gifts and sentiments, since the box of chocolates and dandelions from my teenage years no longer suffice. Women need to feel a connection that goes beyond what a measly $5 can buy. And it’s our duty as men to go above and beyond to show our significant others how much they mean to us.
Guys Like Gifts Too, Okay?
Lucky for us, we’re not the only ones giving gifts on this day- wherever it really came from – since we usually get some type of Valentine in return.
Maybe your girlfriend writes you a heartfelt card professing her love, gives you your favorite soap and a candle to set the mood or gives you a new bra from Victoria’s Secret- for her to wear, not you (unless you’re into that, which is cool too. No judgement here).
It doesn’t matter how manly you are, us guys need to feel the love too.
My Shower is Getting Cold
Valentine’s Day has really come a long way from the dark days of whipping in the 3rd Century. And although it’s now a Hallmark holiday, it’s a good reminder to show appreciation for the people we love- especially if you tend to forget the really important dates- like an anniversary or birthday (c’mon, we’ve all been there). It’s basically a built-in second chance.
Some of my best thinking is done while I’m in the shower. Lathering up with a bar of Pine Tar soap really whisks me away to a land of deep thoughts that help me make some of my toughest decisions. Like, what the hell I’m going to do for my girl this Valentine’s Day?
This edition of Shower Thoughts is over, but maybe it’ll come to me during my next shower.