April 2016 A to Z Challenge – I’m writing about history.
V is for Valentine’s Day or Slap Me with a Goat Hide
As with most holidays, Valentine’s Day is nested in pagan roots. February 15 was the pagan festival of Lupercalia. To begin the festival, members of the Luperci (an order of Roman priests) would gather at a sacred cave and sacrifice a goat which represented fertility. They would then cut the goat’s hide into strips and dip the strips in blood. (Romantic so far, no?) They would then march through the town, gently slapping women with the goat hide. Instead of beating the priests to death with rocks, women actually welcomed the slap of the hide, believing it would make them more fertile in the coming year.
Fortunately for us girls, in the 5th century Pope Gelasius replaced the pagan goat-hide-slapping celebration with a Christian holiday – St. Valentine’s Day. It was still a celebration of love and fertility, but without all that goat nonsense. I’m sure the goats were happy about it, too.
Today, 150 million Valentine’s cards are exchanged every year, and not one goat hide in the bunch!