Getty Images

There are a couple of legends behind the history of Valentine’s Day.

One tale says, after the Roman god Lupercus drove a wild, roaming pack of wolves out of Rome, an annual festival was held in his honor on the 15th of February.  On the night before the holiday, on the 14th, each Roman girl would put her name on a slip of paper and the young men would then draw a name from the jar in a kind of "love lottery" - maybe a  forced marriage would put it in better terms.

A Catholic legend dates back to third-century Rome and involves a priest named Valentine who sent the first “valentine” greeting himself.  Emperor Claudius the Second decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed marriage for young men.  But Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform secret marriages.  When Claudius found out, Valentine was ordered put to death.

While he was in jail, the priest fell in love with a young woman, who may have been the jailer’s daughter.   Before his death, he wrote her a letter, and signed it  "From your Valentine."  He sent the letter on February 14th.

Eventually the Catholic Church banned the practice of the "love lottery," restored the institution of marriage and proclaimed Valentine a saint, declaring February 14th a day in his honor.

Some Valentine’s Traditions -

In the Middle Ages, young men and women would wear the name of the person they love on a slip of paper on their sleeve for a week.  From that comes the term wearing your heart on your sleeve.

In some countries, a young woman may receive a gift of clothing from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him.

Some people used to believe that if a woman saw a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it meant she would marry a sailor. If she saw a sparrow, she would marry a poor man, but she would be very happy.  If she saw a finch, she would marry a rich man.

Another tradition is to think of the names of five or six men or women you might like to marry. As you twist the stem of an apple, say the names until the stem comes off.  That’s the person you’ll marry.  If you cut the apple in half and count how many seeds are inside, you’ll also know how many children you’ll have.