Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate romance and love and kissy-face fealty.
Fealty = Noun; a formal promise to forever follow / serve / protect someone loyally
“The knights swore gave their fealty to the king”
“My grandparents were married for 70 years. Their relationship was built on respect and fealty”
But the origins of this festival of candy and cupids are actually dark, bloody — and a bit muddled.
to be MUDDLED = adjective. To be unclear as a sound, image, or idea.
“I wear earplugs when my daughter practices the piano to muddle the sound”
“He tried to explain his idea, but his thoughts were all muddled during the presentation”
Though no one has pinpointed the exact origin of the holiday, one good place to start is ancient Rome, where men hit on women by, well, hitting them.
to PINPOINT = verb; to be exact or precise about xyz
“My wireless signal was bad, so I couldn’t pinpoint your location”
“She was able to pinpoint the exact moment she knew the business would succeed”
to HIT ON a man or woman = verb; to publically approach someone with a romantic idea or goal to start a relationship.
“He hit on her at the bar, offering to buy her a drink but it didn’t work, and he came back defeated”
“Women are being more forward these days, and it is common for them to ‘make’ the first move or hit on a man they are interested in”
Those Wild And Crazy Romans
From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.
HIDE = noun; the skin from a large animal after a hunt.
“The hide of the buffalo was treated and then used for clothing”
“American footballs are made of cowhide”
The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.
FERTILE = Adjective; to easily have the ability to reproduce
“The soil was fertile, and it would be easy to grow vegetables there”
“The couple went to a fertility doctor to find out why they were having trouble starting a family”
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.
The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.
Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. Lenski adds, “It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn’t stop it from being a day of fertility and love.”
Around the same time, the Normans celebrated Galatin’s Day. Galatin meant “lover of women.” That was likely confused with St. Valentine’s Day at some point, in part because they sound alike.
As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe.
to ROMANTICIZE = verb; to think of the ideal / perfect version of something and ignore the reality
“It is easy to romanticize travelling abroad, but the reality is not always so great”
“Americans love to romanticize the west, with some still dreaming of being a cowboy some day”
Handmade paper cards became the tokens-du-jour in the Middle Ages.
Eventually, the tradition made its way to the New World. The industrial revolution ushered in factory-made cards in the 19th century. And in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing valentines. February has not been the same since.
to USHER in = verb; to bring into / introduce to a new place, time, idea.
“The guests were ushered into the dining room for the celebration”
“the rise of social media ushered in a new era of virtual communication and friendship”
Today, the holiday is big business: According to market research firm IBIS World, Valentine’s Day sales reached $17.6 billion last year; this year’s sales are expected to total $18.6 billion.
But that commercialization has spoiled the day for many. Helen Fisher, a sociologist at Rutgers University, says we have only ourselves to blame.
to COMMERCIALIZE = verb
COMMERCIALIZATION = noun; to make profitable, or make money from on a large scale
“Christmas has become too commercialized, it has lost all its meaning beyond shopping!”
“The company is one of dozens around the world racing to commercialize quantum technology“
“This isn’t a command performance,” she says. “If people didn’t want to buy Hallmark cards, they would not be bought, and Hallmark would go out of business.”
A command performance = noun; an action / activity done at the request of a king / ruler “This isn’t a command performance, you can leave at anytime if you’re not enjoying yourself”
And so the celebration of Valentine’s Day goes on, in varied ways. Many will break the bank buying jewelry and flowers for their beloveds.
to ‘break the bank‘ = phrasal verb; to go broke / use all your money on something; to spare no expense.
“I enjoy the holiday as much as the next person, but don’t break the bank for me, something small is still nice”
“I am going to break the bank to make this the best holiday ever”
Others will celebrate in a SAD (that’s Single Awareness Day) way, dining alone and binging on self-gifted chocolates. A few may even be spending this day the same way the early Romans did. But let’s not go there.