Valentine’s Day started in the time of the Roman Empire. At this time, there was a very ancient custom to celebrate the pastoral Feast of Lupercalia held between 13 and 15 February and connected with fertility. As part of the pagan ceremonies, it is said that on the eve of the festival the names of young women were placed in a box. Each young man would draw a girl’s name from the box and they would then be partners for the duration of the festival. Sometimes the pairing of the young couple lasted and they would fall in love and later marry.
The ministers of the early Christian Church in Rome tried to do away with the pagan element in these festivals by substituting the names of saints. As Lupercalia began around the middle of February, the ministers appear to have chosen the martyring of Saint Valentine for the celebration of this event. So it would seem that the custom of young men choosing maidens for valentines on 14 February arose in this way.
It is very unlikely that we shall ever find out the real history relating to St Valentine’s Day. Nevertheless, February has always been the month of love and Saint Valentine has become the patron saint of love, with 14 February immortalised by the giving of cards, often anonymously, letters and flowers, in particular red roses, as well as other affectionate gestures between those most dear.