The origins of Valentines Day are shrouded in mystery. According to University of Notre Dame, Professor Lawrence Cunninghame, scholars have two main theories to explain how February 14 became synonymous with romance.
Roman Feast of Lupercalia
This ancient pagan fertility celebration, which honoured Juno, goddesses and goddess of women and marriage, was held on Feb 14, the day before the feast began. During festival time, women would write love letters, known as billets, and leave them in a large urn. The men of Roman... would then draw a note from the urn and ardently pursue the woman who wrote the message they had chosen. Apparently, the custom of lottery drawing to select valentines continued into the 1700´s, coming to an end when people decided they’d rather choose – sight seen! – their valentines.
Birds and Bees
In the middle ages, people began to send love letters on Valentines Day. Medieval Europeans believed that birds began to mate on Feb 14.
There’s also some controversy regarding Saint Valentine, for whom the famous day is named. Archaeologists, who unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to St Valentine and no one is sure if there was one Valentine or more. Today, the Catholic Church recognises at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred if not the same year, on the same date Feb 14. The most popular candidate for St Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who practiced Christianity and performed secret marriages against direct orders from Emperor Claudius II, who believed single soldiers were more likely to join his army. Legend has it that Valentine sent a friend (the jailers daughter) a note signed “From Your Valentine” before he was executed on Feb 14 in 270 AD. (That phrase is still used prominently on today’s cards).
Early Christians were happier with the idea of a holiday honouring the saint of romantic causes than with one recognizing a pagan festival in 1496 AD. Pope Gelasius named Feb 14 in honour of St Valentine as the patron saint of lovers. In 1969, Pope Paul VI dropped it from the calendar. However, the blend of Roman festival and Christian martyrdom had caught on, and Valentine’s Day was here to stay.