The Three Legends of Valentine's Day
v One: It is believed that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. At the time, the ruler Emperor Claudius II, decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine saw the decree as an injustice and decided to defy Claudius's law. Secretly, he performed marriages for young lovers. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
v Two: Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians escape the harsh conditions and inhumane treatment of the Roman prisons. It is believed that Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. The legend states that while in prison Valentine fell in love with a young girl. Perhaps it was his jailor's daughter who visited Valentine 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.
v Three: While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial, others claim that the Christian church marked the date 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. The Lupercalia festival began at the ides of February, February 15, and was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. The ceremony involved the gathering of priests in a cave where they would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. Then, the boys would slice the goat's hide into strips, dip them in the sacrificial blood and take to the streets where they gently slapped both women and fields of crops with the goat hide strips. Later in the day, 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.
Besides Valentine's rumored love letter to his jailer's daughter, the oldest known valentine was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt (1415).