Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentines was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.
St. Valentine gave his life so that young couples could be bonded together in holy matrimony. They may have killed the man, but not his spirit. Even centuries after his death, the story of Valentine’s self-sacrificing commitment to love was legendary in Rome. Eventually, he was granted sainthood and the Catholic Church decided to create a feast in his honor. They picked February 14 as the day of celebration because of the ancient belief that birds (particularly lovebirds, but also owls and doves) began to mate on that very day.
Historians aren’t 100% sure about the origins of Valentine’s Day, but many believe it all started as the pre-Roman empire ritual known as Lupercalia, which sounded like a real hoot. Every February 13 – 15, goats and dogs were sacrificed at an altar by the Luperci (or “brothers of the wolf”) as an offering. After that, folks were anointed in the blood of the animals, wiped clean with some wool soaked in milk (as one does), and feasted until they were full and drunk. Then came the best part: the Luperci took the skins of the sacrificial animals and ran around naked, smacking people with them.
When you think of Valentine’s Day you probably think of flowers, chocolates, and notes sealed with a kiss—not whipping women with dead animals or martyrdom.