In the days of ancient Rome, the fourteenth day of February was a pagan holiday which honored
Juno. Juno was the queen of the Roman gods as well as the goddess of women and marriage. The
next day, the fifteenth, was the first day of the Festival of Lupercalia. This festival honored
Juno and Pan who were two Roman gods. Fertility rituals were held on this day. On the night
before the festival started,it was customary for the names of the Roman girls to be written on
slips of paper. These slips were then placed in a container and then each boy drew a name of the
girl who he would be coupled with for the entire Lupercalia festival.
Rome was under the authority of Emperor Claudius the Second, and he was a vicious warrior,
not to mention the fact that he was insane. His armies lacked the sufficient number of soldiers
it needed, and Claudius could not figure out why more young men didn't want to go to battle.
Finally, he determined that the young men didn't want to leave their wives, families and
girlfriends. In order to remedy this, the Emperor instituted a new law and canceled all of the
marriages and engagements in Rome.
In the mean time, there lived a priest in Rome by the name of Valentine. He did not believe in
the Emperor's new law, and he refused to abide by it. He continued to perform wedding ceremonies
in secret. He lived in constant fear that he would be caught by Emperor Claudius' soldiers, but
he persisted in doing what he knew was right. Finally, the day did come when Bishop Valentine
was caught uniting a man and a woman in the bonds of holy matrimony. The soldiers dragged him
to stand before Emperor Claudius' throne. The Emperor condemned the Bishop to be put to death
for his violation of the law.
While the priest was imprisoned, waiting for his execution, many young couples threw notes
of thanks along with flowers and other gifts into the window of his cell. Among these young
people who admired the priest for doing the right thing was the prison guard's own daughter.
Her father allowed her to visit Bishop Valentine in his cell. During these visits, the two
would talk and laugh and share each other's thoughts. Finally, the day arrived when Bishop
Valentine was scheduled to die. It was the fourteenth of February in the year of 270 AD. While
he was waiting for the soldiers to come and drag him away, Bishop Valentine composed a note to
the girl telling her that he loved her. He signed it simply, "From Your Valentine."
Finally, in the year 496 AD, Pope Gelasius did away with the pagan festival of Lupercalia,
citing that it was pagan and immoral. He then chose Bishop Valentine as the patron saint of
lovers, who would be honored at the new festival on the fourteenth of every February.
Over the years, Valentine's Day has evolved into a holiday when gifts, cards, flowers and
candy are given to the ones we love or would like to start a relationship with. And it is all
because of a brave, righteous man named Valentine.