HISTORY OF VALENTINE’S DAY
Although it can sometimes feel that Hallmark has conjured up the whole Valentine’s Day scenario for the purpose of selling greetings cards, they cannot be held responsible for its origins. Indeed, the celebration of St Valentine’s Day was created by the early Christian Church as a replacement for a Pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia.
The festival of Lupercalia:
Traditionally celebrated by the ancient Romans on the 15th February, the festival of Lupercalia involved the sacrifice of a goat for fertility and a dog for purity at a sacred cave – a place where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were thought to have been nursed by the she-wolf, Lupa. The Lupercalia celebrations involved Roman youths dipping goats’ hides in blood and then running naked through the streets, slapping crop fields and the hands of women who believed it would increase their fertility. Compared with this, the giving of a bouquet of red roses and a bunch of chocolates in the 21st century seems an altogether more civilised way of celebrating the elements of love and romance!
Conversion to Christianity:
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380 AD, many pagans converted to Christianity but continued their celebration of Lupercalia. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius, changed the celebration of Lupercalia on the 15th February to the celebration of St. Valentine, on the 14th.
So that explains why we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day on the 14th February.
So who was St Valentine?
However figuring out, who exactly St Valentine was becomes a little tricky. History shows at least two possible contenders. One of these is a St Valentine from the town of Terni in central Italy, who was martyred and later became a saint. The other was killed during the Christian persecutions of the 3rd century.
Link with Romantic Love:
An explanation of why the name St Valentine became linked with the celebration of romantic love can be found in a 15th century tome called the Nuremberg Chronicle. This ancient document refers to a priest who was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples during a time of Christian persecution and eventually killed for trying to convert the Emperor Claudius to Christianity. However, whether this priest was called Valentine and whether he became a saint, we shall never know.
So there you have it: naked Roman youths, priests martyred for the love of Christianity, a defiant priest marrying Christian lovers – a mix of pagan passion and Christian martyrdom. Take your pick.
Make Valentine’s Day special:
With so much historical drama underlying this imminent day of love and romance, the least you can do is make Valentine’s Day a special time for your loved one.
Whether you do that with a greetings card from Hallmark, a beautiful bouquet of roses, a proposal or an expensive diamond ring – or even replicate the festival of Lupercalia and run naked through your local neighborhood – I’ll leave entirely up to you.
Anyway … Happy Valentine’s Day.