The most popular Saint Valentine, and the one frequently attributed with fathering Valentine’s Day, was a Roman priest during the third century, serving under Emperor Claudius. Emperor Claudius believed that single men made better soldiers than those married and with families, and passed a law making marriage illegal for all young men. Valentine recognized the horror of this law and continued to marry young couples in secret, effectively defying his Emperor.
When Claudius discovered Valentine’s acts of defiance, he had him killed immediately. Valentine was later canonized by the Vatican and, in the 5th century, February 14th was named his feast day, the day designated by the church to honor and commemorate a saint’s life.
Still, other people believe that February 14th’s designation as a day of love, comes out of something far less bloody than a martyred saint. In France and England, February 14th is the beginning of the birds’ mating season, which symbolizes love, fertility, and the promise of spring.