The lover’s holiday has its beginnings in the 4th century B.C. in Rome. The Romans held an annual lottery wherein young men would draw a young woman’s name from a box. The couple would be assigned to each other the entire year for entertainment and pleasure. This celebration, traditionally held on February 15, also included banquets, dancing and foot races run in the nude.
Around A.D. 496, early church fathers sought an end to the pagan practice, but knew better than to upset the citizens by removing the lottery completely. Instead, they had teenagers pull the names of saints from the box. The teen was supposed to spend the year emulating that saint’s life as much as possible, which was probably not as much fun as naked marathons. St. Valentine was chosen as the patron saint of the new event, and young Roman men resorted to courting females by sending handwritten notes delivered on February 14.