How Did Valentines Day Start

We didn\'t find anything vulgar or unseemly in Yahoo!\'s Saint Valentine of Rome or Valentine\'s Day categories. But we did uncover some of the myths and legends surrounding this romantic holiday.

The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine who were martyred on February 14, and all date from very early in the church\'s history. One was a priest in Rome, another was the bishop of Interamna (modern-day Terni in Italy), and the third died in Africa. Some suggest the first two are the same person. The holiday was inspired by the bishop of Interamna or a combination of the bishop and the priest of Rome.

Many kind, sometimes miraculous acts are attributed to St. Valentine. One of the most popular legends concerns marriage. The reigning Roman emperor, Claudius, was recruiting soldiers to go to war, but many men didn\'t wish to leave their wives or girlfriends, so the emperor outlawed new marriages. Valentine defied him by secretly marrying couples, which earned Valentine a prison sentence and, ultimately, death. Another tale (sometimes mixed in with the first one) recounts Valentine\'s stay in prison, during which he cured the jailer\'s daughter of blindness. He fell in love with the woman and sent her a final letter signed "from your Valentine." This is why lovers call each other their "valentine."

As is the case with many Christian holidays, Valentine\'s Day probably incorporates some pagan elements. In ancient Rome, February 15 was the start of a major fertility festival called Lupercalia. This festival was dedicated in part to Juno, the patron goddess of women and marriage. During the celebration boys drew girls\' names from an urn. Sometimes, these pairings led to a wedding.

When Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, the old pagan festivals were ended. Many people continued to celebrate them, so the Church attempted to change the pagan elements. For Lupercalia, instead of drawing a future mate\'s name, children drew the names of saints and were supposed to emulate them for the year. The day of St. Valentine\'s was conveniently close to the old festival day, thus the pagan celebration evolved into a Christian saint\'s day. Around the year 498, Pope Gelasius made it official by declaring February 14 St. Valentine\'s Day.

Valentine\'s Day traditions and stories grew popular over time, particularly in the Middle Ages. The chivalric idea of courtly love fit well with this holiday, and noblemen and women sent love notes and small gifts. By the 17th century, many people in Europe celebrated the holiday. In the Victorian era, mass-produced Valentine\'s Day cards became available, and they\'ve been a big hit with romantics ever since.