Valentine's Day occurs annually on Februay 14. Modern day customs include sending greeting cards known as valentines to loved ones. School rooms are often decorated with lace and paper hearts. Gifts of candy and flowers are also common at this time.
The origins of Valentine's Day are uncertain. Many experts believe that it originated with Lupercalia, a Roman celebration honoring the wolves Romulus and Remus. During this festival, young men struck women with a goatskin hide called a februa. Receiving the blows was thought to make women more fertile and to ease childbirth. At Lupercalia, the names of all the young women in the city were placed in a box. Young men drew a name from the box and the couple would be paired until the next Lupercalia. Lupercalia was replaced with Valentine's Day by Christians.
Others trace Valentine's Day back to the rule of the Roman emperor Claudius II. In the 200's C. E., Claudius become frustrated when he had trouble recruiting soldiers into his army. Believing that the young men did not want to leave their wives and children, Claudius banned all marriages of single young men. However, a priest named Valentine disobeyed Claudius and performed secret marriages. Claudius found out about the marriages and sentenced Valentine to prison until his death on February 14, 270 C. E.
Many historians believe the custom of sending poetic verse on this day originated with the capture of Charles, Duke of Orleans, during the Battle of Agincourt. From his prison cell in the Tower of London, Charles sent his wife a rhyming love letter.
Valentine cards became popular in Great Britain in the nineteenth century. Noted artist Kate Greenaway created cards which featured joyful children and beautiful gardens. Esther Howland was one of the first Valentine card manufacturers in the United States. Inspired by a British card, she began production in 1847. Her cards featured lace and paper flowers and leaves. Other card manufacturers emphasized Cupid, the pudgy, winged son of Venus, the goddess of love. In Roman lore, Cupid is known as Eros, the son of Aphrodite.