7 Valentine’s Day Traditions From History That Are As Charming As They Are Creepy

There are few holidays more divisive than Valentine's Day. And whether you embrace it wholeheartedly and spend the day showering hearts on everybody, or rail against it as commercialized rubbish, you may be intrigued to know that Feb. 14 these days is a lot less, well, creepy than it was in centuries past. Valentine's Day traditions from history involve a lot of strange superstitions and folklore, ranging from the charming to the outright spooky. They cast our glitter-and-roses version of the day in an entirely different light.

There's a lot of historical argument about the origins of Valentine's Day, and what the relationship between Saint Valentine himself, the ancient Roman holiday of Lupercalia, and romantic love actually is. However, we do know that people across Europe have embraced it for centuries, and in the process have developed elaborate traditions that can seem a bit shocking to modern eyes. Valentine's Day was a time to express specific cultural ideas about love, relationships, women's roles, food and fate; you can tell a lot about society from the way it treats its lovers. And tracing the history of Valentine's Day also gives an insight into how modern conventions — flowers, cards, the idea of "love birds" — developed in the first place. Just in case you were looking for somebody to blame. Here are seven of the oddest bits of Valentines celebration in history, to put that smoochy Snapchat you got into perspective.