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Valentine's Day: What Is and What Could Be
What if V-Day was more like Lupercalia, the ancient Roman festival of fertility?

LUPERCALIA: Get whacked with a goat hide spattered in dog’s blood, win a boyfriend in a lottery, get pregnant.

VALENTINE’S DAY: Get whacked with ads telling you to buy lingerie and chocolates in the hopes of getting someone to continue to mate with you.

Valentine’s Day should be more than a defibrillator for the twitching carcass of the post-holiday economy – that’s what Family Day is for.  “Valentine’s Day” was dreamed up by the Catholics to commemorate some guy who was locked up for marrying some people to each other. Then it was craftily co-opted by Hallmark and La Senza to make you feel bad enough to buy stuff.

Rather than bow to crippling romantic expectations and consumer misery, let’s look to what occurred during the Ides of February before St. Valentine rolled around: the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia.

Plutarch described Lupercalia as a time when “noble youths and magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. [Thongs = pieces of goat-hide soaked in dog's blood]  And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery and the barren to pregnancy.” It was later rumored that the young ladies would enter their names into a draw for young men to pluck out, pairing the two for the next year. Presumably, resulting in babies everywhere. 

All this served to pay homage (somehow) to Lupercus (the god of shepherds) and the mighty she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, the fathers of Rome. Let us re-imagine this ancient festival in modern times, and compare what could be with what is. 

Go Nude, Young Man

What could be: It’s still a bit brisk to go prancing down the Danforth nude. But that’s why we have PATH; our indoor town square. Today, ‘noble youth and magistrate’ alike could parade about the food court in all of their corporeal glory, shaking free from the chains of V-Day (and for a few minutes, PATH Security).

What is: Hurriedly searching PATH to buy flowers in a lifeless basement.

Bloody Wac-A-Mole

What could be: Roman tradition required the young men soak goat-hide thongs in dog’s blood (both animals symbolizing virility). These flogging devices were destined for lucky ladies; a hearty slap would aid in fertility and ease childbirth pains. It may be hard to get a bloodied goat carcass/dead dog on such short notice, but an accidentally bloody thong is one of the most discarded wardrobe items I know! Ask around.

What is: Northbound Leather 

Mate for Life Sweepstakes!

What could be: Why not leave your romantic destiny up to the whistling hole of chaos and random chance? Encourage your friends and enemies to enter their friends, enemies and passerby into a large spinning drum, just like the Michigan State Lotto. Draw out a name and find yourself a mate for life – with no tedious profiles to sift through! Like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, but nobody gets killed …right away, anyway.

What is: OKCupid. If you’re slumming it, POF. 

Replicate Yourself 

What could be: Modern couples expect to bang and get banged on V-Day. Use this fact and basic trickery to score some offspring in your baby-hole, courtesy of your lottery winnings-boyfriend! Instead of bloodied goat skins for fertilty, use modern tricks like ‘accidentally’ expired nuva-rings. 

What is: Use 3D printing technology to develop a silicon mold which you can fill with chocolate. A candy that looks like your face. You can eat your own image and poop it out, essentially reproducing yourself.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Toronto Standard.  Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson. 

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