There are two theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day. According to History.com, one is that the day derives from Lupercalia, a raucous Roman festival on February 15th where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens in the hopes of upping their fertility. (Okay … that is a little weird).
The second theory is that while the Roman Emperor Claudius II was trying to bolster his army, he forbade young men to marry, because apparently single men make better soldiers. In the spirit of love, St. Valentine defied the ban and performed secret marriages, History.com reports. For his disobedience, Valentine was executed on February 14th.
Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from that priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. Other accounts hold that it was St. Valentine of Terni, a bishop, for whom the holiday was named, though it is possible the two saints were actually one person.
Formal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. Valentines commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that the avian mating season begins in mid-February, birds also became a symbol of the day. Traditional gifts include candy and flowers, particularly red roses, a symbol of beauty and love.
Oh and one other fun fact …Wearing your heart on your sleeve was more than just a phrase. In the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names to see who their Valentine would be. According to Smithsonian, they would wear the name pinned to their sleeve for one week so that everyone would know their supposed true feelings.
So there you go … a little Valentine – Who knew?