Why do we celebrate Valentine’s Day? In the early years, it was more goat blood than roses – USA TODAY

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While it mightbe common knowledge that Americans will spend billions of dollars this Valentine's Day season celebrating, it is lesser-knownhow Valentine's Day actually came about.

Let's begin with St. Valentine or the Valentines. As history.com points out, there are a number of Valentines nearly all of them martyrsthat are connected to the holiday. However, St. Valentine of Terni mightbe the most famous, with two legends associated with him.

Under the rule of Claudius II, the Roman army relied largely on single men. In an effort to save lives, Valentine, who was the bishop of Terni at the time, would wed couples to keep husbands away from war. What a guy, right?

Unfortunatelyfor Valentine, the emperor didn't take too kindly to his noble romanticism and beheaded the bishop near the outskirts of Rome.

Thereis also the less violent fable that another man named Valentine was imprisoned by the Romansand sent a letter to a woman he loved with the signature, "From your Valentine." And as history has it, a prison letter would ultimately spark the ideas forboth valentine cards and the concept of valentine admirers.

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So, this explains why the name is synonymouswith love. But why the celebration? Cue the goat blood.

Lupercalia, a Roman-pagan holiday for fertility, can take credit for that. During the festival, a goat and a dog would be sacrificed. The hides were dipped in blood, and women were then whipped by the pelts of the dead animals. Strangely enough, the bloodypelts were supposed to increase the fertility of the women.

And for the Lupercalia finale which is named after Lupa, the she-wolf who raisedRemus and Romulus a couples lottery would ensue. Women would place their names in a jar, and a man would select a namefrom the jar and be paired with the woman for the rest of the festival. Often, these pairings would result in marriage.

Not exactlythe stereotypical teddy bear, roses and Hallmark card-gifting notions we've grown accustomed over the years. However, St. Valentine and romance for better or worse have historically always been linked.

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In the 15th century, English poet and author Geoffery Chaucer would write about the mating season of birds on Valentine's Day in his book, "Parlement of Foules." Hence, the idea of lovebirds. Later, Shakespeare would continue the romantic rhetoric referencing Ophelia asHamlet's valentine,according to Smithsonian Magazine.

The commercial side of Valentine's Day cards and gifts would begin in the 19th century with Esther Allen Howland.

New England-born Esther Howland was 20 in 1848 when she began to design Valentines Day cards.(Photo: Special to The News-Press)

According to a 2017 article in Time, Howland is often referred to as the "Mother of the American Valentine."During the 1850s, Valentine's Day cards were often expensive and imported from Europe.

Howland decided to make her own cards at a reasonable price. She hired some helping hands, began making celebratory cards, and during the height of her enterprise, she was making approximately $100,000 annually (a multimillion dollar business by today's standards).

She'd eventually sell her business to the George C. Whitney Co. in the late 1880s. The Whitney Co. would eventually go on to become the world's largest Valentine's Day card manufacturer.

Today, the average American will spend $196.31 for Valentine's Daythis year. Across the nation, holiday sales are expected to eclipse $27.4 billion,according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

From pagan rituals to a dozen roses, Valentine's Day has come a long way.

Follow reporter Neil Strebig on Twitter @neilStrebig.

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Why do we celebrate Valentine's Day? In the early years, it was more goat blood than roses - USA TODAY

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