The Lupercalian Festival in Rome (ca. 1578–1610), drawing by the circle of Adam Elsheimer, showing the Luperci dressed as dogs and goats, with Cupid and personifications of fertility.

I love Valentine’s Day. Not because I am particularly romantic, or like grand gestures of love or being showered with gifts. I love it because it’s a holiday that promotes happiness. It’s a day that encourages positive actions and emotions; what could possibly be wrong with that?

The day before Valentine’s Day I received a text message from a friend announcing “Happy Galentine’s Day,” something I have never come across before, and although I appreciated the sentiment it did get me wondering why there should be a separate day for Gals and their Galfriends? Love is love after all. Why shouldn’t friend love be a part of Valentine’s Day?

St Valentine, against the decree of Emperor Claudius, performed marriages in secret and was executed for his actions. Valentine’s Day commemorates his sacrifice and the anniversary of his death. Most people know that part, but what we probably didn’t realise is that Valentine’s Day is also said to be the Church’s attempt to “Christianize” the festival of Lupercalia which falls on the 15th of February. Lupercalia is a paganesque fertility festival that involved the sacrificial skinning of goats, followed by gently slapping the women and crops of Rome with the goat’s hide in an attempt to increase fertility. The women of Rome would also place their names in an urn and their names would be draw from the urn by the men of Rome, creating matches that would usually end in marriage. Perhaps the origins of most dating sites and swinger parties?

There are so many stories and origins to this wonderful day it’s hard to keep up! But ultimately people often misconceive Valentine’s day as a feminine day: that it was created by women for women so that their men would shower them with gifts and appreciation. This is where me and Valentine’s Day have a problem.

With the new addition of Steak and BJ Day in some societies (March 14th in the UK), an alternative to Valentine’s day designed especially for men, I can’t help but get a bit irritated. Why are we creating individual holidays for different types of people? Why are we isolating different kinds of love?

Like the film Valentine’s Day illustrates, love is versatile and vast. It cannot be pigeonholed or divided by gender. Men are entitled and crave affection just as much as women do. Stop it with the cliches and let us all enjoy a day designed to encourage the positive emotions that otherwise can get lost in the hectic lives of 21st century people.

-Rebecca King
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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