An excuse to shower your lover with material manifestations of your affection, Valentine’s Day offers us all a chance to channel our inner-romantic. Whether you spend weeks planning out elaborate gifts and meals, or need to grab a bunch of flowers on your way home, February 14th isn’t just a day to symbolize love through mass commercialization, nor is it a day made to celebrate monogamy over celibacy or polyamory. If anything, the origins of Valentine’s Day came closer to celebrating the latter rather than the former.
Believe it or not, but Valentine’s Day is historically Italian. Dating back to the Roman Empire in the 6th Century B.C. many historians believe that Valentine’s Day is an offshoot of the ancient pagan fertility ritual of Lupercalia. Celebrated in the middle of February, the festival began with the sacrificial slaughter of a male goat and dog by a group of Roman priests called Luperci, and continued with raucous feasting, the consumption of wine, nudity, and of course coupling. For an entire week, couples paired off for the week to celebrate the festival.
According to legend, as the Roman Empire reluctantly transitioned from paganism to Christianity in the 3rd Century A.D, Emperor Claudius II beheaded bishop Valentine on February 14th for secretly marrying Christian lovers. Marriage was banned at the time. Granted Sainthood posthumously by the Christian Church for his efforts in unifying Christians in love, Saint Valentine became thereafter known as the patron of lovers. With the transition to Roman Catholicism, the pagan celebration of pairing off and coupling during Lupercalia was replaced with a more modest celebration of Saint Valentine.
Today, La Festa di San Valentino is celebrated throughout Italy with professions of love and romantic dinners. While some shower gifts of Baci, little Italian chocolates filled with hazelnuts, on their loved ones, others flock to the home of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, to see the large red heart painted in Verona’s historic Piazza dei Signori. Whether you choose to make a show of your everlasting commitment with a Lucchetti dell’Amore, a lovers padlock locked onto a bridge or fence, or prefer a more intimate and private setting to acknowledge your bond, we recommend you make room to celebrate this Italian day for lovers like they did in ancient Rome: maybe not with debaucherous displays of behavior in the streets, but most definitely with a delicious meal like our home-made beet ravioli.