HOUSTON — Why does Valentine’s Day have a dark origin story? We often think of candies and cards, but its roots are pretty dark.
According to NPR, it all started with an ancient Roman festival celebrated in the middle of February. Some of the details of the feast of fertility are not safe to share, but the revelers would whip women with the hides of sacrificed animals to promote fertility.
There was also a lottery to pair up couples for the festival, and maybe even longer if the match was successful. Then came a couple of guys named Valentine who were both executed by the Roman emperor Claudius II.
According to legend, one was a priest who secretly married couples after marriages were outlawed to keep young men in the military. Another Valentine, a Bishop, was executed for helping Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. Stories suggest he sent a love letter to a woman who visited him in prison, signing it, "From your Valentine."
Those legends are pretty murky, but the one thing historians agree on is that Roman fertility festivals were outlawed in the 5th Century for being too pagan. Feb. 14 was then declared St. Valentine's Day. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that it morphed into a holiday to celebrate love, with people exchanging valentines greetings. It’s fair to say no Hallmark cards were exchanged.