Valentine's Day - the popular festival of love and romances traces its origin to ancient Roman festival and has not been created by card companies as some people believe it to be. There are various legends associated with the festival along with the belief that birds began to mate from this day. Popularity of the Valentine's Day festival stems from the combined effects of all these legends, beliefs and of course the wish to glorify the unparalleled feeling of love.
Historians trace the origin of Valentine's Day to ancient Roman Empire. It is said that in the Rome of ancient times people observed a holiday on February 14th to honor Juno - the Queen of Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also regarded Juno as the Goddess of Women and Marriage. On the following day, February 15th began the fertility festival called 'Feast of Lupercalia'. The festival of Lupercalia was celebrated to honor the Gods Lupercus and Faunus - the Roman God of Agriculture besides the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
An interesting custom was followed in the Feast of Lupercalia to bring together young boys and girls who otherwise were strictly separated. On the eve of the festival names of young Roman girls were written on a slip of paper and placed into jars. Each young man drew out a girl's name from the jar and was paired with the girl for the duration of Lupercalia. Sometime pairing lasted for a year until next year's celebration. Quite often, the couple would fall in love with each other and later marry. The custom lasted for a long time until people felt that the custom was un-Christian and that mates should be chosen by sight, not luck.
The pairing of young boys and girls did set the mood of the Valentine's Day Festival as we know today. But it was actually due to the efforts and daring of a priest St Valentine that the festival got its name and clearer meaning. The story goes that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in several bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius found it tough to get soldiers and felt the reason was men did not join army because they did not wish to leave their wives and families. As a result Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. A romantic at heart priest of Rome Saint Valentine defied Claudius's unjustified order. Along with Saint Marius, St Valentine secretly married couples. When his defiance was discovered, Valentine was brutally beaten and put to death on February 14, about 270 AD. After his death Valentine was named a Saint.
The association of middle of February with love and fertility goes back to ancient times. While ancient Athenians celebrated it as the month of Gamelion to celebrate the marriage of Greek Gods - Zeus and Hera, ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia to honor the Roman Gods of fertility - Lupercus and Faunus.
by William Shakespear
Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow’d from this holy fire of Love,
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seeting bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.