As days lengthen and darkness recedes, our blood begins to stir . . .
Ancient Romans celebrated the coming of spring with the fertility rites of Lupercalia. Bands of young men ran about the Palatine hills smiting women on exposed parts of their body with leather thongs fashioned from sacrificial animals to confer fertility. Afterward, men and women were paired off by lottery.
In the 5th century, the nascent Catholic Church appropriated the pagan rite first as The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and later in honor of an obscure Saint Valentine to be celebrated on February 14th.
By the Middle Ages the auspicious day was romanticized with the exchange of love notes and small gifts and by 1900 commercialized with the mass printing of Valentine’s Day cards.
Like the drawing of Cupid’s bow, the tension between our biology and culture continues to this day. Seems to me the Romans had it right. If I were the emperor, I’d move Burning Man to the springtime and task our finest artists to create an updated Lupercalia to celebrate and elevate the human spirit throughout the empire, perhaps empowered with AI and dating-app technology.
In the meantime, here are some ways you can reinvent Valentine’s Day: