Well, we made it. Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are done, and The Year That Shall Not Be Named is finally over. Onto the next holiday, because there's not much else to look forward to right now. So when is Valentine's Day in 2017? Well, the short version is that it's on Feb. 14, as always. This year, that's a Tuesday. Nope, not particularly exciting, but that's what happens when a holiday has a fixed date, rather than an assigned day of the week (like Thanksgiving, which falls on the last Thursday in November and is therefore celebrated on a different day of the week each year). But the long version? Well, that's considerably more interesting.
So: Why is Valentine's Day always celebrated on Feb. 14? What makes that particular date more romantic than the other 364 days of the year? The exact history is a bit murky, as Valentine's Day has been around in some form since the ancient Romans, but the general consensus is that a festival called Lupercalia is involved.
Traditionally from February 13 to 15, Lupercalia was run by a group of priests dubbed the Lupercali. Named for Lupercus, a god usually associated with Faunus (Rome's version of the Greek figure Pan), the basic gist of the holiday was: Sacrifice a goat and a dog, run around the city, beat women with the sacrificed animals' skins. Yep. Yes. That is the basis for our most saccharine of holidays. Being whipped with the skins was believed to grant fertility, so women would line up willingly to be flogged. The celebration also included a matchmaking lottery, in which men and women would be thrown together for a night — or longer, depending on how satisfactory the coupling was.
According to historians, Lupercalia was essentially an excuse to get drunk and naked and wild. Cool.
Then, throughout the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine, both on February 14 (in different years). The Catholic Church honored the martyrdom of both men with Saint Valentine's Day.
In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I blended Lupercalia with the celebration for Saint Valentine in an attempt to curb paganism. It kind of worked, but not, like, really. Sure, they put the clothes back on Lupercalia (literally), but the theatrics, the drinking, and the open celebration of love and lust and fertility was all still there.
Meanwhile, across an ocean or two, the Normans were celebrating Galatin's Day, which translates to "lover of women." We can assume two things from this: That at some point, Galatin's Day and Valentine's Day were probably confused and blended because they sound very similar, and that Leslie Knope was definitely, 100 percent onto something with Galentine's Day.
So as you prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day this year, just try to remember its origins: Blood and gore and violence and drunken revelry. And a lot of smooching. Happy loving, fam!