Saint Valentine, according to some ecclesiastical writers a bishop, according to others a presbyter, who was beheaded at Rome in the reign of the emperor Claudius (270), and was early canonized. Wheatley says that St. Valentine "was a man of most admirable parts, and so famous for his love and charity, that the custom of choosing Valentines upon his festival (which is still practised) took its rise from thence." Others derived the custom from birds being supposed to select their mates on this day; others from a practice prevalent in ancient Rome at the festival of the Lupercalia, during the month of February, when, among other ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were taken by young men, as chance directed. The pastors of the early church, finding it impossible to extirpate this pagan ceremony, changed its form. It was the custom on the eve of Feb. 14, St. Valentine's day, to have the names of a select number of one sex put into some vessel by an equal number of the other; and thereupon every one drew a name, which for the time being was called his or her Valentine. The custom of choosing Valentines existed very early.

Presents of gloves, garters, and jewelry were common as valentines.