The Complicated History of Valentine's Day: From Martyrdom to Romance

TLDR Valentine's Day has a complex history, with origins in the martyrdom of St. Valentine and connections to the pagan Roman festival of Lupercalia. Over time, it evolved into a day for romance and love, with the tradition of choosing a Valentine and the popularity of sending cards.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 Valentine's Day has a complicated history with multiple St. Valentines and uncertain origins, making it more complicated than Christmas or Easter.
04:48 Valentine's Day is associated with the martyrdom of St. Valentine, who was a Christian and was beaten to death with clubs, but there is nothing romantic in the original story; however, there is a connection to the pagan Roman festival called Lupercalia that took place in the middle of February.
09:46 The Lupercalia festival in ancient Rome involved sacrificing goats and a dog, wiping their blood on the brows of boys who had to burst into laughter, and men running around whipping bare-breasted women with goat thongs to prevent stillbirths.
14:55 Chaucer's poem "The Parliament of Fowls" is the first representation of the parliamentary system in poetry and takes place on Valentine's Day, which is associated with the beginning of spring and the time of year when thoughts turn to romance.
19:45 The tradition of choosing a Valentine emerged in the 15th century, with references to Valentine's Day in poems and letters, and by the 17th century, there were various ways to choose a Valentine, including sending cards or choosing by lot.
24:28 By the 18th century, Catholics were starting to oppose the idea of Valentine's Day, with some trying to link it to a pagan festival, but regardless of its origins, by the mid-18th century, Valentine's Day had become embedded in folk tradition and was widely recognized as a day for romance and love.
28:56 The relics of Saint Valentine are located in the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Dublin, where visitors can write in a book if they are unhappy in love or looking for love.
33:32 The introduction of the penny post in 1840 revolutionized communication by allowing people to send anonymous letters, leading to a boom in love letters and Valentine's cards.
37:53 Valentine's cards became incredibly popular in Britain in the 19th century, with American publishers even issuing catalogs of imported British cards, but Esther Howland from Worcester, Massachusetts, decided to undercut the British and set up her own successful card business, which remained the biggest American manufacturer until it was overtaken by Hallmark in 1910.
42:24 Valentine's Day cards in the Victorian era were often cruel and insulting, with one example saying "you are a nerve destroyer" and wishing someone would choke the recipient.
46:55 The Valentine's Day Massacre was a scandal that led to the federal government taking action against Al Capone and the corrupt mayor of Chicago, William W. Thompson.
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