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The Dark and Twisted History of Valentine's Day

As February 14th looms, so does the dark shadow of unbelievably cheesy cards, flowers at twice the price, nauseating Facebook posts that seem more like a bragging competition about who has the best boo...or is it bae... or something else now?


For a day that’s supposed to be about true love and happiness, there are few holidays that evoke a collective groan like Valentine's Day. A quick Google search will generate more hits than you could possibly read in your lifetime about the commodification of love, coping strategies for unmet expectations, and on the day that celebrates couples.  


If you find yourself feeling lonely this Valentine’s Day, don’t beat yourself up. We are wired for companionship, intimacy and the human connection. There is a wealth of research over the last 50 years showing how human connection and sense of belonging builds resilience, counters stress, and improves physical, emotional and mental health – especially during difficult times.


But there is a very dark and twisted history behind this day of love and romance. In fact, the history of Valentine's day is pretty gory.

Although historians quibble over the actual origin of the holiday, the Romans “celebrated” long before Hallmark. From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia, an annual festival in the month of February that was celebrated to chase out evil spirits and increase the fertility of the females. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, and then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain. According to some historians, the guys were drunk and naked while the women lined up for their turn with the whip. Pretty romantic, huh?

February 14 became the official modern day of love, romance, chocolate and overpriced flowers thanks to an execution on February 14th in the 3rd century A.D. Under the rule of Roman Emperor Claudius II, Rome was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join the military. Claudius believed it was because of Roman men were too focused on Roman women and love. As a result, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome.

Valentine, a holy priest, defied Claudius and performed marriages on the downlow. When Claudius discovered this, he arrested Valentine and ordered death by beheading. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270. Legend also has it that St. Valentine was a hopeless romantic to the very end. While in jail awaiting his execution, he left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter and signed it “From Your Valentine.”

As the years went on, it got a little sweeter and eventually made its way across the pond. Thanks to the industrial revolution in the 19th century, factory-made cards were introduced. And in 1913, a little company called Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines.

Today, “Be mine” means big business. According to the National Retail Federation,   we'll be spending $25.8 billion to celebrate our true loves this year, slightly down from last year's $25.9B.  The number of people buying candy this year is expected to set a new record high with 57% of consumers.


Valentine’s Day Fun Facts:

  • February 14th is the second largest card giving day of the year, just after Christmas.

  • Approximately 8.2 billion conversation hearts are produced each year – enough to stretch from Valentine, Arizona to Rome, Italy, and back again.

  • Men spend an average of $130 while women spend about $70.

  • It’s expected that $1.7 Billion will be spent on candy this year.


Hover over your state to find out what Valentine's Day candy is the most popular in your neck of the woods!

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

If I didn't know you better, I'd suspect a cynic. 😋


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I forgot to mention that my Birthday is on Feb. the 15th. Biologically speaking, I was born 3.5 to 4 billion years ago... give or take a million years.


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Thank you for your comments on Valentine's day. I send along a poem I wrote about Valentine's day several years ago because I could not (at the time) find a poem which was explicitly written for the day. Whereas there were multiple poems about love, there were none which (I felt) were specifically concerning the tradition. And no, I am not flirting with you.

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