What is Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day is a romantic day observed on February 14th. People send greeting cards called valentines to their loved ones. Many valentines have romantic verses, and others have humorous pictures and sayings. The most common saying is, "Be my Valentine."

Valentine decorations and cards can go on store shelves as early as the day after Christmas. Schools decorate their classrooms with paper hearts and streamers just for this occasion.  The most common gifts to give on Valentine's Day are candy and flowers. 

How did Valentine's Day begin?

The holiday of Valentine's Day probably came from the ancient Roman feast called "Lupercalia." In the early days of Rome, dangerous wolves lived in the forest nearby. The Romans called upon one of their gods, Lupercus, to keep the wolves away. A festival held in honor of Lupercus was celebrated February 15th. The festival was celebrated as a spring festival. Their calender was different at that time, with February falling in early springtime.

One of the customs of Lupercalia for young people was called "name-drawing." On the eve of the festival of Lupercalia, the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and put in a jar. Each young man drew a piece of paper with a name on it. The girl whose name was chosen would be his sweetheart for the year.

Legend says that the holiday became Valentine's Day after a priest named Valentine. Valentine was a priest in Rome at the time when Christianity was a new religion. The Emperor at that time was Claudius II. He ordered the Roman soldiers NOT to marry or become engaged. Claudius believed that as married men, his soldiers would want to stay home with their families rather than fight his wars. Valentine disobeyed the Emperor's order and secretly married the young couples. He was eventually arrested, imprisoned, and executed.

Valentine was beheaded on February 14th, the eve of the Roman holiday Lupercalia. After his death, Valentine was named a saint. As Rome became more Christian, the priests moved the spring holiday from the 15th of February to the 14th - Valentine's Day. Now the holiday honored Saint Valentine instead of Lupercus.

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