The word February comes from the Latin februa, which was used to fix goat leather straps used in the Ancient Rome during certain purification rites, therefore February is called the month of the purifications.
In the Ancient Rome, halfway through February, the Lupercales were celebrated in honor of Luperco (God of fertility and agriculture) and of Juno Februata (Goddess of women and marriage). During the Lupercales, the priests (luperci) crossed the city beating the pedestrians, especially the women, with februas, a purification rite which guaranteed the fertility and made the labor easier. On the 14th February, festivity of Juno Februata, a curious pairing rite took place: the young Romans drew a paper from a jar with the name of a young girl, who would be his partner during the festivities. These festivities had a high sexual component.
At a later stage the Church would christianize these festivities dedicating the 14th February to Saint Valentine, Christian priest who lived during the 3rd Century, in the time of the emperor Claudio II. The emperor prohibited the soldiers to get married, thinking that, if they would not have any family ties, they would fight with more bravery. Valentine disobeyed this order, married secretly the young lovers which could have lead him to prison, martyrdom and later on he would be converted into the patron of the lovers.
In Spain the tradition of Valentine’s day is not as deep-rooted as in the United States or other countries and for many it is a merely commercial festivity.
Even though the habit to interchange gifts on Valentine’s day already existed in Great Britain and France during the Middle Ages, it was Esther A. Howland (1828-1904) who started decorating card with romantic motifs. Her father started selling these cards for a few cents in his library (Massachusetts).