Gather around children, let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, long, long, long ago, there was a scandal. A scandal of epic proportions. Olivia Pope couldn’t handle this scandal. There was a girl named Rhea Silvia who was a virgin priestess in a temple somewhere. Rhea was good at her job, I think, but not that good. See, she had … relations with someone and ended up pregnant. Le gasp! This was a big no-no.
In no time, the king of the land found out because pregnancy is very visible evidence that you have had … relations. The punishment for breaking your chastity vow back then was death and that was what awaited Rhea Silvia. But there was an issue with the parentage of Rhea’s offspring. See, the king believed that Rhea had gotten pregnant from the god of war, Mars (oh pris) and was scared that if he hurt her or her child(ren), there would be hell to pay. So, when the water broke, Rhea gave birth to twin boys (named Romulus and Remus), and immediately Rhea was imprisoned. The boys were condemned to death by the elements. They were put in a river Moses-style and off they went into the wild blue yonder.
Fast forward just a tiny bit.
Romulus and Remus were found by a wolf named Lupa who raised them as her own pups.
This is the part where we all roll our eyes collectively.
Blah blah blah, Romulus and Remus grew up, killed a king, declined his puny kingdom and went on to found their own. They got a good spot for their city but there was a tiny disagreement somewhere. Eventually, Romulus killed Remus because he was annoying and finished his city and called it Rome (after himself – he was a narcissistic dude).
Remember this. We’ll come back to it soon.
Enter Saint Valentine or Valentinus some millennia after the foundations of Rome. Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. During that time the Emperor (Claudius II), decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Thus (don’t you just feel smarter when you use this word), he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine was pissed. How dare the Emperor do this?! He thought the decree was unjust, and thus (twice in one paragraph!), defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Teren teren!
But before he died, Valentine was sent to prison. There, he allegedly fell in love with his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine.” So sad.
So sad. Like a Shakespearean tragedy. Or Nairobi Diaries. Actually, Nairobi Diaries is sadder. It is worthy of tears! Wololo!
Long story short, Valentine or Valentinus died, Christians mourned and made him a Saint. And now we celebrate Valentine’s Day.
But, wait. Why is Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February?
I’ll give you a hint. It’s not because Valentine died on the 14th of February.
Remember the twins, Romulus and Remus? On the Ides of February (which basically means the middle of February), there was a fertility festival called Lupercalia dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, as well as the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. (But Remus died before Rome was founded. Hata sijui jina yake inafanya nini hapa).
The festival began when the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the twins were believed to have been cared for by Lupa, the she-wolf (oh pris). The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
A DOG, YOU GUYS!
They would then strip the goat’s hide and dip the strips in the sacrificial blood (the goat and dog blood, so that we’re clear). Then, oh gosh, then, they would go to the streets and gently slap both women and crop fields with the goat hide strips. It was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year.
And that’s why you guys wear red on Valentines. The color of love is goat/dog blood.
Later in the day, all the young women in the city would place their names in an urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name from it and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.
Finding a mate was easy back then… Very efficient. No friend zones, bro zones or nidownloadie movie zones.
This pagan festival was taken over and turned into the Valentine’s Day you all know.
Now you’ve learnt some history.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Don’t forget to slap your girlfriend/wife with some goat’s blood. And get her some flowers. Roses are preferred. And some candy.