What Do Goats Have to Do With Valentine’s Day?

Love Park, Philadelphia

Love Park, Philadelphia

What do goats, particularly Italian goats note Pasqualina and Pinta, have to do with Valentine’s Day? So glad you asked!

Valentine’s Day as we know it has its roots in the ancient Pagan festival of Lupercalia, which was held in mid-February in Rome to purify the city, chase away evil, and also increase fertility. The celebration would begin when vestal virgins delivered cakes made from the first ears of grain of the previous year’s harvest to the cave where a She-Wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the brothers who (as the story goes) had founded Rome.

At this point, two naked young men proceeded to sacrifice a goat and a dog — notably this is the only Roman festival in which a goat was sacrificed. Then, according to The Pagan Library:

With the bloody knife, their foreheads were smeared with blood, then wiped clean with wool dipped in milk. The young men laughed and girded themselves in the skin of the sacrificed goat. Much feasting followed. Finally, using strips of the goat skin, the young men ran, each leading a group of priests, around the base of the hills of Rome, around the ancient sacred boundary of the old city called the pomarium. During this run, the women of the city would vie for the opportunity to be scourged by the young men as they ran by, some baring their flesh to get the best results of the fertility blessing (you can see why the Christian church tried so hard to get this ritual banned, but it was so popular that it continued for quite some time under the new regime.)

That’s right, folks! In ancient Rome, the goal of this mid-February event was not to see how many boxes of chocolates you’d get, what color roses you’d receive, or whether you’d get the best conversation heart message. Instead, the race was on to get whipped by a goat skin — and the gals weren’t afraid to go Mardi Gras style either (OK, they were probably baring arms and legs and not breasts, but still…).

So, as you can see, goats have a deeply rooted history with this day for lovers — although it isn’t a particularly pleasant one on the part of the goats. For this reason, I ask that you show your goaties a little extra love this Valentine’s Day, and if they happen to ask for smooches, well, I say give ’em what they want.

Valentine's Day kiss from Pasqualina

Valentine's Day kiss from Pasqualina

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By the way, if you’d like to honor the role goats have played in Valentine’s Days past, please consider giving the gift of a goat through Heifer International: “The gift of a dairy goat represents a lasting, meaningful way for you to help a little boy or girl on the other side of the world.”

Heifer International: Give a Goat for Valentine's Day

Heifer International: Give a Goat for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Smooches to all!

P.S. Still want more trivia to impress your family and friends? Find out why the heart is a symbol of love and Valentine’s Day.

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4 Responses to “What Do Goats Have to Do With Valentine’s Day?”
  1. Nell
    02.11.2011

    Smooches right back at you and the girls in the Pen your Pip’s!
    You know the church always has a nasty habit of getting ridd of all the fun cultural things and put in place things Incense so you can sufficate as you pray.

    [Reply]

  2. 02.11.2011

    What a lovely kiss from Pasquelina! Kisses back from me and all the goats here, especially Lucky Nickel, who is a kisser extraordinaire! Thank you for teaching about the rather distressing goat/Valentines Day connection. I think I prefer to keep that ritual well in the past! But I will sacrifice some peanuts to the goats instead!

    [Reply]

  3. 02.12.2011

    Thanks for the history lesson. Very interesting, but I too am glad that the goat sacrifice is a thing of the past. Kisses back to the girls from Auntie Beth :o)

    [Reply]

  4. 02.14.2011

    So glad we no longer celebrate the holiday this way. I prefer chocolate,and the goats prefer to keep their skins. Kisses back from all the goaties here!

    [Reply]


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