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Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure.By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa.The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love.During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery.
Find out about the history of this centuries-old holiday, from ancient Roman rituals to the customs of Victorian England.Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year.Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn.When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.
Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America.