"This year the average consumer will spend approximately $97 on Valentine's Day, according to the National Retail Federation's Valentine's Day Consumer Survey. Total estimated spending is predicted to be $13.2 billion, which is up just over 1 percent from last year. The most popular gift given on Valentine's Day is a greeting card, followed by flowers, candy and an evening out." Source: Forbes.com
Every February 14, Valentine's Day is celebrated by giving flowers, candy and cards to lovers or those we hope to love. Even though Valentine's Day falls on February 14, the feast day of several Christian martyrs named Valentine in the third century A.D., its customs probably began eight hundred years prior to the establishment of Valentine's Day with a couple of Roman pagan celebrations.
The custom of sending lover's greetings on February 14 may have no connection with any saint, but dates from the later Middle Ages, when it was believed that this day marked the beginning of the mating season for birds.
"For this was Seynt Valentine's Day when
every foul cometh ther to choose his mate."
- Chaucer, "Parlement of Foules"
So the priest's martyrdom may have just provided a name for the annual celebration of avian sex.
The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. This celebration originated as a tradition in the third century B.C. During this time hordes of wolves roamed outside of Rome where shepherds kept their flocks. The God Lupercus, Roman God of flocks and fertility, was said to watch over the shepherds and their flocks and keep them from the wolves. The feast was in honor of Lupercus so that no harm would come to the shepherds and their flocks.
The celebration featured a lottery in which the names of girls were written on slips of paper and placed into a vase. Young men would draw a girl's name from the jar, making these two partners for the duration of the festival. The girl assigned to each man would also be his sexual companion during the remaining year. Often, they would fall in love and would later marry.
As Christianity became prevalent, attempts were made to replace old heathen practices, especially the erotic festivities at the Feast of Lupercalia.
In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius changed the name of the Lupercalia festival to St. Valentine's Day, and ordered a slight change in the lottery. Instead of the names of young women, the box would contain the names of saints. Both men and women were allowed to draw from the box, and the game was to emulate the ways of the saint they drew during the rest of the year. Not too surprisingly, this prudish version of Lupercalia proved unpopular, and by the Fourteenth century they reverted back to the use of girls' names.
In the Sixteenth century, the Church once again tried to have saintly Valentines, but it was as unsuccessful as the first attempt.
Although the church had banned the lottery for women, the mid-February holiday in commemoration of St. Valentine was still used by Roman men to seek the affection of women. It became a tradition for the men to give the ones they admired handwritten messages of affection, containing Valentine's name.
But the early Christians were anything but quitters, so it was on to Plan B: modulate the overtly sexual nature of Lupercalia by turning this "feast of the flesh" into a "ritual for romance."
One of the men named Valentine was a priest during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (268 to 270) - full name, Marcus Aurelius Claudius Gothicus (A.D. 214–270), who defeated the Goths in 269. 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. The Emperor wanted the men to be heartless and fearless soldiers, free of wives and girlfriends. Claudius decreed that no marriages should be celebrated and that all engagements be broken off immediately.
Father Valentine thought this to be unfair, and secretly performed marriages in and around of Rome. Found out not too long later, Father Valentine was imprisoned, where he either 1.) languished and died, or 2.) was beaten with clubs and then beheaded when all attempts to make the priest renounce his faith had proved fruitless. Devoted friends buried him in the church of St. Praxedes on the fourteenth of February, 269 or 270 AD.
Father Valentine was a kind and wise person who had a lot of friends. They begged the Emperor to free him and sent letters and flowers to jailed Valentine. Many think that these were the first "Valentine" letters and flowers sent.
The second Valentine was an early Christian in the time when Rome was unfriendly to the upstart religion. For helping some Christian martyrs he was seized, dragged before the prefect of Rome, and cast into jail.
There he was said to have fallen in love with and cured the jailor’s daughter, Julia, of blindness. When news of this miracle spread, Rome's leaders gave orders that Valentine should be beheaded. The morning of the execution, he is said to have sent Julia a farewell message signed, "From your Valentine," words still used on cards today.
This new twist helped to finally bring an end to the random drawing of names, since many men were unhappy about giving gifts (sometimes very costly) to women who were not of their choosing. And now that individuals were free to select their own Valentine, the celebration took on a new and much more serious meaning for couples.
Other Valentine Customs - In medieval Europe, a young girl was supposed to eventually marry the first eligible male she met on this day. If a girl was curious and brave enough she could conjure up the appearance of her future spouse by going to the graveyard on St. Valentine's Eve at midnight. She would then sing a prescribed chant and run around the church twelve times.
In England, little children went about singing of St. Valentine and collecting small gifts. It was also customary to place Valentines on their friends' doorsteps.