THE good Saint Valentine was a priest at Rome in the days of
Claudius II. He and Saint Marius aided the Christian
martyrs, and for this kind deed Saint Valentine was
apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who
condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have
his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of
February, about the year 270.
At that time it was the custom in Rome, a very ancient
custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February the
Lupercalia, feasts in honor of a heathen god.
On these occasions, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies,
the names of young women were placed in a box, from which
they were drawn by the men as chance directed.
The pastors of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavored
to do away with the pagan element in these feasts by
substituting the names of saints for those of maidens. And
as the Lupercalia began about the middle of February, the
pastors appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's Day for the
celebration of this new feast.
So it seems that the custom of young men choosing maidens
for valentines, or saints as patrons for the coming year,
arose in this wise.