Depiction of Lupercalian festivities.
The ancient origins of St. Valentine’s Day are obscure. Historians see the celebration of the day stretching back to early Rome, with several embellishments ~ especially commercials ones ~ occurring in the succeeding centuries.
According to NRP:
From February 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.
The Roman romantics "were drunk. They were naked," says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival – or longer, if the match was right.
The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name. Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on February 14 of different years in the 3rd century AD. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day.
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