The holiday of Valentine's Day probably derives its origins from the ancient
Roman feast of Lupercalia. In the early days of Rome, fierce wolves roamed
the woods nearby. The Romans called upon one of their gods, Lupercus, to keep
the wolves away. A festival held in honor of Lupercus was celebrated February 15th.
The festival was celebrated as a spring festival. Their calender was different at
that time, with February falling in early springtime.
One of the customs of the young people was name-drawing. On the eve of the
festival of Lupercalia the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper
and placed into jars. Each young man drew a slip. The girl whose name was
chosen was to be his sweetheart for the year.
Legend has it that the holiday became Valentine's Day after a priest named Valentine.
Valentine was a priest in Rome at the time Christianity was a new religion. The Emperor
at that time, Claudius II, ordered the Roman soldiers NOT to marry or become engaged.
Claudius believed that as married men, his soldiers would want to stay home with their
families rather than fight his wars. Valentine defied the Emperor's decree and secretly
married the young couples. He was eventually arrested, imprisoned, and put to death.
Valentine was beheaded on February 14th, 269AD the eve of the Roman holiday Lupercalia.
After his death, Valentine was named a saint. As Rome became more Christian, the priests moved
the spring holiday from the 15th of February to the 14th - Valentine's Day. Now the holiday
honored Saint Valentine instead of Lupercus.