The festival of Lupercalia
The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia (celebrated to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility) has been one of the earliest records of the term Valentine’s Day. But the holiday isn’t what you would imagine.
The event, which was held February 13 to February 15, began with the traditional sacrifice of an unlucky goat and dog.
A group of priests called the Luperci then cut off a piece of the skin of the two animals, touched it to their foreheads and then struck it against every woman nearby. The thinking, it was said, is that the women hoped it would help make them more fertile.
By the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I had seen enough — he replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day.