According to tradition, St. Valentine is the patron saint of courtship, travelers, and young people. One story says that he was a Roman priest who became a martyr because he helped persecuted Christians around A.D. 270. Sent to prison, he restored the sight of a blind girl, who fell in love with him. According to another tale, Valentine was a young man awaiting execution. He loved the jailer's daughter and signed a farewell message to her "From your Valentine."
patron special guardian, protector, or supporter
martyr person who suffers or is put to death for a belief
pagan term used by early Christians to describe non-Christians and non-Christian beliefs
Early celebrations in honor of St. Valentine took place in the middle of February, around the time of an ancient Roman pagan festival known as the Lupercalia. It was customary for men to draw the name of a young girl from a box and celebrate the festival with her. The Christian church substituted names of saints for
*See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.
the women, and individuals who picked them were supposed to draw inspiration from the lives of the saints.
During the Middle Ages, St. Valentine's feast day on February 14 became known as a day for lovers. The custom of sending valentines to a loved one on St. Valentine's Day may have come from the belief that birds begin to choose their mates on that day.