Red roses, chocolates, a romantic meal, fabulous jewelry... no, we’re not listing the contents of Mariah Carey’s dressing room. We are, of course, describing the perfect Valentine’s Day for many. February 14 has become synonymous with love, relationships, and these days, spending exorbitant amounts of money on grand romantic gestures. But all that lovey-dovey stuff has its origins in something far more sinister. There was a time when Valentine's Day wasn't a day for love at all.
Let's celebrate... love?
As far as modern Valentine’s Day celebrations go, it's been all chocolate and jewelry for centuries. But like most things in life, it was a much different story during the Middle Ages. While Valentine's Day has been recognized for hundreds of years, most of its history certainly hasn’t been romantic. In fact, it was more, well, animal skins and bloodshed.
Traveling back to ancient Rome
Even during the Middle Ages, the notion of romantic love was still pretty new. And given the horrific origin story of the holiday, it’s not hard to see why it took people a while to get on board with the whole "celebrating love" thing. Unsurprisingly, Valentine's Day's bloody origin was in the famously-chill Roman Empire.
Warfare was never far from home
Yes, nothing at all violent and traumatizing happened during ancient Rome's heyday, right? Wrong! Back then, tension among differing religious groups meant that warfare was never far from home. And at that time, it was Christianity that was illegal for people to practice. Of course, many Christians refused to back down — especially devoted clergymen.
Marriage was banned
Apparently, during the third-century reign of Claudius II, the emperor banned soldiers from getting married. The leader believed that single men made better fighters. As a result, anyone caught marrying members of the military would face the death penalty. This, plus the national ban on Christianity, meant that marriage was strictly off the table. After all, who would risk a terrible death just so they could marry the love of their life?