February will always be known as the month for romance. Stores explode with red and pink, flowers and hearts, candies and cupids — all in the name of St. Valentine.

But how did commercialized hearts and candy become a holiday, and who is this Saint Valentine?

According to History.com, we celebrate Valentine's Day in February to commemorate the anniversary of the death or burial of Valentine.

The title can be attributed to at least three different saints named Valentine. One legend contends Valentine was a priest who defied Emperor Claudius II, who in the third century outlawed marriage for young men, by continuing to perform wedding ceremonies. When this was discovered, Valentine was put to death.

Another legend suggests Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they often were beaten and tortured.

A far stretch from today's valentines, the oldest known valentine in existence is a poem by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. Written in 1415, this poem is on display in the British Library in London.

Whether we will ever know the truth behind the legends, the stories certainly exemplify Valentine's appeal as sympathetic, heroic and, most importantly, romantic, making Valentine one of the most popular saints in England and France by the Middle Ages.

While many celebrate more out of obligation than anything, Valentine's Day still can be a wonderful opportunity to show compassion and appreciation for the people we love. More often than not, simple, heartfelt gestures are the best way to offer that gift of love.

So men, instead of waiting until the last minute on the way home from work Feb. 14 and then standing in line at the grocery store with flowers in one hand and a box of cheap chocolates in the other; and ladies, instead of spending too much money and dealing with the hassle of creating the perfect valentine while hoping — usually in vain — to receive the perfect valentine, here is a list of ways to celebrate Valentine's Day that just might earn you some brownie points with your better half.

10. Go sledding, or snow-shoeing: Get out and get active. Who says you have to gorge on food and chocolate to show your love and appreciation for your significant other? What better way to spend time with the one you love than to take a day and enjoy the beautiful outdoors? End your day with a cup of hot chocolate or hot apple cider while cuddled up in front of a fire, or watching a favorite movie. Guys, this is a perfect time to cave in and watch those "chick flicks" she has been wanting to see. Or ladies, maybe you could put a smile on your face and watch "Remember the Titans" with him for the 35th time.

9. Get dressed up and eat in: Turn your kitchen into your favorite restaurant and enjoy the night crowd-free. Don't worry about having to afford the expensive restaurant, with all the attendant hassles of parking and fighting traffic. Stay home. If you have small children, take them to the baby sitter. Enjoy quiet time together.

8. Go out for dessert: Pick your favorite restaurant, get all dressed up and only order dessert. Don't worry about paying for a full meal when there is dessert to be devoured. If you want to splurge a little, order two different desserts and share with each other.

7. Write a love letter: Actions may speak louder than words, but they don't always say as much. A love letter for Valentine's Day doesn't have to be poetic. It just has to be real and heartfelt. And if you want to add a nice extra touch, send it through the mail or to the office.

6. Create handmade coupons with gifts your partner can use anytime: Sure, this sounds a little like your Primary days, when you made coupons for your mom on Mother's Day, but it's still fun. Be creative and make sure to follow through with the promised coupon.

5. Breakfast in bed: What a nice way to start your Valentine's Day by having your husband or wife surprise you with heart-shaped pancakes. Throw in a few sides, fruit and yogurt, and you have a lovingly nutritious start to your special day.

4. Mixed CD: Make your love a mixed CD full of songs that describe how you feel. Add some songs that you both will love — especially "your song," if you have one — and songs that reflect your relationship.

3. I-love-you notes: Stuff and stash little "I love you" notes anywhere and everywhere you can: in the sock drawer, coat pocket, lunch box and computer case. Hang one from the inside of the refrigerator, or put one in the car visor.

2. Romantic scavenger hunt: Send your partner on a scavenger hunt starting with a homemade note or card leading him or her to another clue attached to a rose or chocolate and finally ending in a candlelight dinner at home.

1. Propose! It does not have to be an elaborate, expensive thing. In fact, any one of the other nine ways to spend Valentine's Day can be used as a way to propose marriage. Just add a ring to the event and there you have it.

Bonus: Sent in by a reader: Go out to a retirement home and share your love and appreciation for the residents. What better way to celebrate love than to give it away. It can get very lonely for those who are older and who might have lost the one they love years before. Share your love for each other with them, and you'll find your own love will grow.

E-mail: jlarson@desnews.com