How Valentine#039;s Day came into being

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, which meant the New Year's resolution to lose weight officially went the way of the dinosaur as chocolate candy once again found its way atop the ever-convenient kitchen counter, coffee table or mantle-top.

Or maybe you got flowers. Can't eat flowers.

Or maybe you received a bag of those itty-bitty candied hearts with neat little sayings on them like ‘I Luv U', or ‘Sweetie', or ‘Make Luv, not War', (the latter a holdover from the 60s-era of peace, baby, peace.)

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Valentine's Day has an interesting history. The holiday's origins are found in ancient Rome. On Feb. 15, a purification ritual involved drunken priests running through the streets, blessing young women with skin from a recently sacrificed goat. Women believed a touching by the goatskin would render them fruitful, a highly desirably quality in a wife for the Roman male. Substantial fertility was a must. Sort of like buying a car with air conditioner installed today.

And from this pagan fertility ritual, we derived Valentine's Day, where cardboard hearts, red roses, pounds of chocolate and helium-inflated balloons has taken the place of bloody pieces of rank goatskin. And substantial fertility has been replaced with all of the male's superficial desires in a woman. Or as so adequately put by George Costanza in a Seinfeld episode, &#8220We see beautiful things and we must have them.”

Valentine's Day really didn't become associated with romantic love until the 14th century in England and France. In that era, lovers began to exchange cards and letters and refer to one another as ‘my Valentine.' Legends of St. Valentine are commonly thought to have been popularized in this time period.

One tale involves his martyrdom for being a Christian (highly plausible, since Nero and host of other Roman dictators decided to burn, maim and feed Christians to the lions in the ancient world). On the night before his death, the saint passed a love note to his jailer's daughter, signed simply ‘from your Valentine.'

In America, Esther Howland was the first to mass-produce Valentine greeting cards in 1849, thus launching the commercial holiday we know and ‘luv' today.

But from a man's point of view, wouldn't the day be a whole lot easier - and more fun - if we just drank wine all day and chased after women with pieces of rank goatskin?

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: