I had never really looked into the origins of Valentine's day until now... because duh, it's February.
Here's what I found out:
Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who was martyred (put to death) around 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend, the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness.
Another states that St. Valentine defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war. It is for this reason that his feast day is associated with love.
As the story goes, the year was 289 AD when the Roman Emperor Claudius II set a law that young men could not get married. He believed single men were better soldiers than those with wives of children. Valentine thought this law was cruel and unjust.
So he performed marriages in secret. Sadly, when Claudius discovered this, he had him put to death!
Other legends tell that Valentine might have been killed while trying to help Christians flee Roman prisons where they were tortured.
… but before his death he wrote a letter to his lady-love, signed, “From your Valentine”.
By the time The Roman Empire Fell (476 AD), St. Valentine was the most popular saint in England & France!
Formal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s.
Valentines commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that the bird mating season begins in mid-February, birds also became a symbol of the day.
So there you have it, this crazy thing called love.