Valentine’s Day is Tuesday, February 14! This holiday has a surprisingly dark origin.

Learn more about the real story of Valentine’s Day, why Valentine was killed, and some interesting facts and folklore you may not know!

When Is Valentine’s Day? Valentine’s Day occurs annually on February 14. In 2023, it will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 14. 

Where Did Valentine’s Day Come From? Valentine’s Day has its origins as an ancient agriculture and human fertility festival! From February 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia.

This festival was in honor of Lupa, the wolf who was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus (whom founded the city of Rome in 753 B.C., according to legend).

This festival was also dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.

This was the season to start sowing seeds and to hope for a fertile year of crops.

The Darker Origins of Valentine’s Day Believe it or not, this pagan festival involved drunk young men running through the streets naked,

women being smeared in animal blood, and unusual fertility rites.

Ever heard the dating phrase, “being hit on”? In this case, men literally hit on women by whipping them with the hides of the animals they had just sacrificed!

Apparently, many women were willing participants, lining up for the festival, believing this would make them fertile.

Young men also drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would lie together during the festival, in an effort to conceive.

When the Roman Empire became Christian, it evolved into a “Christianized” form of the festival of Lupercalia.

The church honored St. Valentine—who was martyred at this time. However, much of the marriage and fertility traditions from the old ways persisted.

Who Was St. Valentine? Emperor Claudius II executed two priests—both named Valentine—on February 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D.

Although not much of St. Valentine’s life is reliably known, and whether or not the stories involve two different saints by the same name is also not officially decided, one of the St.

Valentines was martyred and then buried on the Via Flaminia to the north of Rome.

Archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine.

Why Was Valentine Killed? As legend goes, the Emperor Claudius II prohibited soldiers to marriage. 

However, Valentine defied the orders and secretly married young couples to spare husbands from war. Valentine was imprisoned, tortured and beheaded.

According to another legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness.

In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius marked February 14 as day to honor their martyrdom and celebration of St. Valentine’s Day was born.

In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar because of the lack of reliable information about him.  

However, the church still recognizes St. Valentine is a saint. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, happy marriages, love, lovers, and young people.

He is represented in pictures with birds and roses and his feast day is celebrated on February 14.