Valentine's Day: Why Do We Celebrate It? (Hint: Naked Romans)
Where did Valentine's Day come from? (Think naked Romans, paganism, and whips.) What does it cost? And why do we fall for it, year after year?
More than a Hallmark holiday, Valentine's Day, like Halloween, is rooted in pagan partying. (See "Halloween Facts: Costumes, History, Urban Legends, More.")
The lovers' holiday traces its roots to raucous annual Roman festivals where men stripped naked, grabbed goat- or dog-skin whips, and spanked young maidens in hopes of increasing their fertility, said classics professor Noel Lenski of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The annual pagan celebration, called Lupercalia, was held every year on February 15 and remained wildly popular well into the fifth century A.D.—at least 150 years after Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire.
Lupercalia was "clearly a very popular thing, even in an environment where the [ancient] Christians are trying to close it down," Lenski said.