It’s a little last-minute now, but if you’re still trying to throw together some Valentine’s Day plans, I’d like to present two possible avenues: (1) Pick something nice from this normal, cute, innovative list of ideas; or (2) go absolutely batshit lawless and celebrate your own Lupercalia (within reason).
For the uninitiated, the feast of Lupercalia was an ancient Roman celebration held between February 13–15 to cleanse the city of evil spirits and release good health and fertility. Over the three-day festival, to put it plainly, “men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.”
To be more specific, a group of priests known as the Luperci would conduct the sacrifice — goats and dogs were specifically chosen due to “their strong sexual instinct,” per one classicist — and then anoint two of the Luperci on their foreheads with a bloody knife. Everyone would then partake in a feast, where, according to Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder, they’d all get drunk and nude (great combination), and the women lined up to be whipped, believing it would make them fertile. There was also a matchmaking component, during which each man drew a woman’s name for a jar to find out who his Lupercalia girlfriend would be. (Is this where the idea for Love Island came from?)
Later, Lupercalia was forced to cool it by Pope Gelasius I, who combined a more theatrical interpretation of the feast with St. Valentine’s Day, a day chosen to honor the, uh, execution of two guys named Valentine, for which they were martyred by the Catholic Church. The new celebration “was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it,” Lenski told NPR. Ah, well.