The name of this month, February, comes from the Roman goddess Februa,
who was the mother of Mars. Her rites are celebrated on February 14th,
when, in ancient Rome, young men would draw lots to find their female
partners for the coming year, which at that time began in March. As
Christianity became prevalent, the practice of drawing female names on
February 14th was changed to drawing the names of saints. Men would draw
a saint's name and would then emulate that saint during the coming year.
This practice did not go over nearly as well with young men as the
previous one had.
February 1st is the celebration of the cross-quarter day or fire
festival, Imbolic, which is an ancient purification festival. This is
followed on February 2nd by Candlemas. The weather on this day is said
to mark the progress of winter.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
If on Candlemas Day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.
These sayings were seized upon by adherents of Ground Hog Day and were
changed to; If the Groundhog sees his shadow, winter will be shortened.
While there seem to have been at least three separate St. Valentines who
lived and died during early Christian legend, they have been over the
centuries merged into one, for the purpose of our celebration on February
14th. As early as 496, Pope Gelasius ordered February 14th be observed
as Saint Valentine's Day, and the official celebration (giving hearts and
sweets to your sweetheart) began in earnest during the Victorian era and
shows no sign of diminishing in this day and age.