Valentine's Day traces its origins back to Lupercalia, a Roman Festival dedicated to fertility. The celebration was traditionally held on February 15th and dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture and the harvest.
The growth of Christianity pushed celebrations into the background until it was revived by Pope Gelasius who declared February 14th the feast for St. Valentine's Day in 496 A.D.
Who is St. Valentine? Known as Valentine of Terni, this third-century Roman saint, has become linked with the idea of courtly love – though no one is quite sure why. Other than the day (February 14th is the date of his martyrdom), the mystery survives. What we do know is that Valentine was killed for refusing to deny Christ by the order of Emperor Claudius II, who was also known as Claudius the Cruel, in the year 280 A.D. for continuing to marry Christian couples – specifically soldiers – against the Emperor’s orders.
What was the deal? Claudius II was convinced that married men were unwilling to join his ranks due to commitments to wives and children, and thus came to the conclusion that single men made better soldiers.
Valentine deemed the decree cruel and unfair, and with the help of other Christian martyrs, he secretly married young lovers in private ceremonies until his actions were discovered. And after a stint in prison, Valentine was beheaded…which you could say gives new meaning to the concept of losing your head over love.