The celebration of Valentine’s Day owes its existence to an ancient pagan ritual. With the spread of Christianity, priests had numerous heathen practices to deal with among their constituents. One of these ancient rituals was the Feast of Lubercus which they changed to St. Valentine’s Day changing the pagan practice of drawing girl’s names with drawing Saints’ names. Young people would draw the names from an urn or box and then were expected to emulate that Saint’s life during the following year. Unfortunately, by the 14th century they had reverted back to drawing girl’s names, in the 16th century they tried again to have saintly valentines but it failed.
According to lore there were seven men named Valentine honored with feasts on February 14th. One of these men named Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Valentine was honored by the young and old, rich and poor, with people of all walks of life attending his services. At this time Emperor Claudius was heavily recruiting men to serve as soldiers for his wars without much success. The men preferred not to leave their wives, families and sweethearts to fight in foreign lands. Claudius became angry and declared that no more marriages could be performed and all engagements were cancelled.
According to the story, Valentine thought this practice to be unfair and secretly married several couples. When Claudius found out, he had Valentine put in prison where he died. Friends and patrons of the priest retrieved his body and buried it in a churchyard in Rome.
Another version of the story tells that St. Valentine was jailed for helping Christians. According to this story, while Valentine was in prison he cured a jailer’s daughter of blindness. Claudius became enraged and had Valentine clubbed and beheaded on February 14, 269 A.D.
Yet another story claims that Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and wrote her letters that were signed “From your Valentine.”
All of the Valentines in time evolved into one. In 496 Pope Gelasius declared the day a holiday in honor of St. Valentine. Through the centuries the Christian holiday became a time to exchange love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. Lovers’ quarrels come under his jurisdiction and, naturally, he is the patron saint of engaged couples and of anyone wishing to marry.