Right now, lovebirds everywhere are scrambling to make dinner reservations (you could also make your Valentine a Little Soya inspired dish), buy flowers, find the perfect Hallmark card, and top it all off with a box of delicious chocolates. The day of love is almost here, and while you could argue Valentine’s Day has become just another consumer holiday designed to make poor saps spend their hard-earned money, the truth is there’s a lot of interesting (and hotly debated) history behind it that often gets overshadowed by the commercialism.
Let’s take a look at 5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about Valentine’s Day.
- A day of sex and excess—While many believe Valentine’s Day was inspired by a religious figure (more on that below), others argue that the real origin of the holiday extends further back to an ancient pastoral festival known as Lupercalia. Observed from February 13 through 15 each year, the purification and fertility festival was basically a 3-day feast where men would run through the streets drunk and naked in search of a female partner. Some might argue that indulging on delicious foods (with Little Soya, of course), drinks, and erotic conquests is more fun that chocolates and flowers, but to each their own!
- Born in blood—When we celebrate Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love and happiness. However, according to the Catholic church, the true inspiration for the holiday was the murder of St. Valentine. One account from the 1400s tells the story of Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded by emperor Claudius II for helping wed Christian couples. So, if you subscribe to this origin of the holiday, Valentine’s Day was truly born in blood.
- “Wear your heart on your sleeve” is more than just a saying—We’re all familiar with the saying, “to wear your heart on your sleeve.” But how many of us actually know where it comes from? As it turns out, during the Middle Ages, men and women would draw names to determine who their Valentine would be. They would then pin this name onto their sleeve for one week so that everyone could see it. And thus, the saying was born.
- A foodie’s dream—In medieval times, women who were trying to lure a Valentine’s Day suitor had a truly unique (and tasty!) way to go about it. In an attempt to dream their future spouses into being, women would spend the holiday evening eating a variety of bizarre foods with the hope that they would see their soul mate in their dreams.
- A commercial bonanza—Despite its questionable beginnings, Valentine’s Day has become one of the most popular holidays over the last century. It wasn’t until 1913 that Hallmark even began producing cards for Valentine’s Day, but over the years, the holiday has gone mainstream. In the United States, it’s estimated that we spend about $448 million on candy while sending our 150 million cards and gifts the week before February 14. The average male shells out around $150 for the holiday, while females spend close to $75 celebrating the day of love.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holiday, we wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day this year!