Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! It's a great way to celebrate your romantic love, your love for your friends, or even making a powerful declarative act of self-love. It's also a big day for flowers (250 million roses on average) and chocolate (58 million pounds on average!) But where did this holiday come from? Well, there are lots of theories out there, but, like many other holidays we celebrate, there are roots in pagan traditions.
During the Roman empire, there was a fertility ritual called Lupercalia. It typically took place between the 13th-15th of February. During the rite, an animal was sacrificed and young women were flogged with the skins and blood of the animals to grant them fertility for the coming year. Many of the decorations and statuary are based around wolves, as the event was also meant to commemorate the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus in the foundation of Rome.
As the Catholic church expanded and began repurposing pagan holidays as their own, they wedded the event of Lupercalia to the story of the martyred St. Valentine. While there are many versions of the tale, the most popular is that there was a Roman emperor who didn’t want his soldiers to marry because it affected their morale during long campaigns. St. Valentine would marry soldiers and their sweethearts in secret, for which he was caught and condemned. While in prison, he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and would sign messages to her as “from your Valentine.”
That's the most common story attached to the legend, but the other story people associate with Valentine's Day is much darker; the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
During the bloody battles of Prohibition-era racketeers, a group of seven men working for the Chicago's North Side Gang were lined up against the wall of a garage and gunned down. While the perpetrators were never caught, it was believed to be ordered by the notorious Al Capone and assisted by members of the Chicago police department who were upset about the death of a police officer's son. The massacre became one of the most infamous events during prohibition and lead to a massive public outcry.
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