The origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded in mystery, because the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions three saints with that name, one of whom was a priest, one a bishop, and the other a relative unknown. About the last, we only know he died in Africa. However, it’s generally believed the holiday honors the third century priest. Oddly, all three men are said to have been martyred on February 14th.
The day associated with love probably sprang from the Pagan festival of Lupercalia, a Roman celebration of growth and fertility. Pope Gelasius renamed the Pagan festival Saint Valentine’s feast day, in honor of the Roman martyred priest.
In medieval France and England, it was believed that most birds mated on February 14th, and by the 18th century, Saint Valentine’s Day had evolved from a religious feast day to a secular one in which cards were made, complete with ribbons and hearts, along with a love poem or verse, and exchanged by lovers. The tradition spread to the colonies, and February 14th is now widely known for a day to celebrate romance. So while you’re enjoying chocolates and wine, give a toast to Saint Valentine. It never hurts to curry favor with someone who may pull the strings in the romance department.