There are a number of different legends about the origin of St. Valentine's Day. Enjoy!
- One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Cladius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men - his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. According to legend, Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl - who may have been his jailor's daughter - who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed "From your Valentine" an expression that is still in use today.
- Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
- While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -which probably occurred around 270 A.D. - others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "christianize" celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of what called spelt throughout their interiors. ("spring cleaning") Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulous and Remus. Now here's where it gets really interesting...To begin the festival, Roman priests would sacrafice a goat for fertility. The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being hit with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman "lottery" system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed.
- Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum.
- Thanks to the History Channel for this research! (http://www.history.com/)