The origins of St Valentine's day can clearly be seen in the Pagan festivals of Greece and Rome, The 14th of February was, in Ancient Rome, traditionally the day specially set aside aside and devoted to Juno, the Queen of the Gods, and patroness of marriage. In her honour the 14th was the day on which love lotteries were conducted - young woman's names were written on slips of paper and thrown into jars to be picked out by the young men. The 'couple' would then be partnered for the duration of the Lupercalia festival. Such pairings often resulted in long lasting relationships. The Catholic Church was later to substitute the names of dead saints in place of those of flesh-and-blood young women to subvert the lusty Pagan practice.
The Lupercalia celebrations themselves traditionally began on the 15th of February with animal sacrifice and ritual flagellation. After slaughtering a goat and dog in the sacred grotto of the she-wolf Lupa, who suckled the legendary orphan founders of Rome (Roman legend states that Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome in 753 B.C), the young men would run through the streets whipping women and crops with the flayed hide of the goat to promote fertility.
Lupercalia harkens back to the days when Rome was nothing more than a few shepherds living on a hill known as Palantine and was surrounded by wilderness teeming with wolves, there is much debate over the origins of Lupercalia and the deity for whom the day was celebrated.
Lupercus, protector of floacks against wolves may have been another likely candidate (lupis is Latin for wolf); or perhaps Faunus, the god of agriculture and shepherds. Others suggest it was Rumina, the goddess whose temple stood near the fig tree under which the she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus.
However there is no question about Lupercalia's importance. Records indicate that Mark Antony was master of the Luperci College of Priests. He chose the Lupercalia festival of the year 44BC as the proper time to offer the crown to Julius Caesar.
The link between the Lupercalia, fertility, and romance in general is clearly evident in the festivities that occurred during the celebrations:
"To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
"The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year.
"Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage."
The Greek historian Plutarch (c. 46 to 120 A.D.) also described the Lupercalia and its relationship to fertility:
"Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy."
Dating from remotest antiquity, Lupercalia was publically celebrated until as late as the reign of Anastasius I in 491-518 CE. However towards the end of the 5th century in 498 CE, Pope Galesius decided to dedicate the Eve of Lupercalia to the long-dead priest Valentine. The lottery system was banned as being "un-Christian" and the Pope did his best to make people forget about other "un-Christian" ideas such as fertility.
The second-century Christian apologist Justin Martyr further links the worship of pagan gods to the Lupercalia when he writes of an image of "the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lupercus," who is nude save for a girdle of goatskin, which stood in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf.
Despite such early precedents, St Valentine's Day did not become a widely celebrated event in Britain until the 17th century. Printed cards did not appear until the late 18th century, but it was not until the 1840's that Esther A. Howland entered the history books as the first person to sell the first mass-produced Valentine cards in the United States.
Red Roses: Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Red is also a color that signifies strong feelings, if you rearrange the letters in rose, you get Eros, the Greek God of Love..
Doves: Doves are symbols of loyalty and love because they mate for life and share the care of their babies, it was also believed they chose their mate for life on February 14 and their white feathers symbolise the purity of their love.
Cupid: In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of desire, affection and erotic love. Today, Cupid is frequently shown shooting his bow to inspire romantic love.
Lace: lace was handmade and adorned a lady's handkerchief. She would give her knight her "kerchief" when he was to ride into battle.
Chocolate: believed by early civilisations to be an aphrodisiac, it has been enjoyed since 1100BC.
Rings and love knots: they have no beginning and no end and reflect true love itself.