Excerpt from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV: St. Valentine
At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under date of 14 February. One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni), and these two seem both to have suffered in the second half of the third century and to have been buried on the Flaminian Way, but at different distances from the city. In William of Malmesbury's time what was known to the ancients as the Flaminian Gate of Rome and is now the Porta del Popolo, was called the Gate of St. Valentine. The name seems to have been taken from a small church dedicated to the saint which was in the immediate neighborhood. Of both these St. Valentines some sort of Acta are preserved but they are of relatively late date and of no historical value. Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.
There are several legends concerning this day and the origin of its celebration. Most of them come from pagan myths and legends surrounding early Rome or some part of the pagan Rome system of worship. Even the image used today as "Cupid," who is supposed to be the "shooter of arrows of love," comes from a composite of several Roman and Greek pagan gods. Cupid himself was actually the Rhomaios (Roman) deity of love.
Many of the events and actions of the celebrants on Valentine's Day are derived from the ancient and pagan Roman feast of Lupercalia. In the early days of Rome, fierce wolves roamed the woods nearby. The wolves killed the sheep outside the city walls and some humans as well. The Romans prayed to their god Lupercus, guardian of the flocks, to protect them. The holiday started out to honor him. A festival held in honor of Lupercus was celebrated on February 15th as a spring festival. (Their calendar was different at that time, with the second month falling in early springtime.)
One of the customs of the young people in this feast of Lupercalia was name-drawing. On the eve of the festival the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. The boys individually drew girls' names from a box, and became paired with them until the following Lupercalia. The girl whose name was chosen was to be the boy's sweetheart during the feast and for the remainder of the year. The activities between the "sweethearts" at the feast was pretty wanton and very sexually oriented.
The Lupercalia is also the setting for the opening scenes of Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar." It is the feast time and Caesar says to Antonius:
Forget not, in your speed, Antonius, to touch Calpurnia; for our elders say, the barren, touched in this holy chase, shake off their sterile curse. -- Act 1, Scene II.
In this scene, Antonius is one of the Luperci, young men (priests of Lupercus) who ran a course in the city of Rome from the Cave of the Lupercal (the place where, by tradition, the founders of Rome - Romulus and Remus - were suckled by the she-wolf) around the Palatine Hill, in order to purify the ancient site. They wore the skins and blood of goats sacrificed in rites held earlier in the day. During the run, the Luperci struck the women they encountered with strips of goat skin (called a "februa") to promote fertility.
February 15 was the second day of Lupercal and the third day of Parentalia (The Parentalia and Feralia festivals of purification were celebrated between February 13-18 in ancient Rome. Opening day, February 13, was dedicated to peace, love and the household gods). The day is dedicated to Juno Februata (Juno the Fructifier).
Throughout the years Lupercus became less important and the holiday eventually turned into a celebration honoring Juno, queen of the Roman gods, by herself. She ruled over marriage, so the holiday became one of love.
Later, when Roman Catholic priests wanted to abolish heathen customs, they used the same method that has placed so many other pagan celebrations into the vocabulary of modern "Christianity." They assimilated the pagan custom by "Christianizing" it as a celebration of some "Christian" character or characteristic. In this case they substituted the names of saints for the names of girls in the drawing lot and later Pope Gelasius, who didn't like or believe in the Roman gods, turned the celebration into a church holiday by honoring St. Valentine's death on this day. Which St. Valentine he apparently didn't say.
The symbology of red hearts used in the celebration of Valentine's day have denoted love since ancient times. Ribbons go back to the days when ladies gave ribbons to their favorite knights when they went to war. Roses and violets both stand for love. Lace comes from a Latin word and it means "to catch." Lace was supposed to catch the heart of a loved one.
By 1400 people all over Europe celebrated this day as a holiday as love. When the English came to America, they brought this pagan holiday to the New World.
To participate in any kind of celebration of Valentine's Day is to honor pagan gods (see Shemot [Exodus] 20:3-6) and contrary to the true and spirit-filled worship of our Creator.