The official day of love and romance. Almost every couple on earth celebrates Valentines’ day irrespective or race, religion or sexuality. Dinner, jewellery, chocolate, flowers, holidays etc. For most, it is about expressing the love they have for their partners. Although, even single folk chime into valentine’s day and use it as a way of owning their singledom. So what if I don’t have a valentine? That doesn’t define me I can take myself to dinner, buy myself gifts. Others spend it with friends; dancing the night away. Or stay in to catch a movie on the sofa with some wine and popcorn. Valentines is indisputably the second most celebrated card sharing holiday after Christmas. Valentines is a huge money maker and is estimated that consumers will spend approximately $18.2 billion dollars on their valentines this year. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Do we really know the origin of valentine’s day though? You ask people and some may say it originates from the Roman Catholic church’s St. Valentines. hmm. Okay. What about him? He was the patron saint for lovers. Okay. What else? You see not many people know that it is deeper than that. As with Christmas (see my first post…AND SO IT BEGINS), valentines’ day stems from pagan tradition; the cute teddies and chocolate we use today are a far cry from its bloody and dark origins. The pagans celebrated fertility and purification during a festival called Lupercalia. This festival is named after Lupercus, the pagan god of fertility and hunters of wolves in Roman Mythology. The good old Romans again. Lupercalia is a 3-day event that usually runs from the 13th– 15th of February. The month February is named after pagan goddess Juno Ferbruata whose festival day is February 14th; smack bang in the middle of Lupercalia. They alleged that she inflicted the young and unwary with her ‘love fever’; hence the sexual excesses involved in Lupercalia. The pagans associated the whole month of February with Lupercalia. The Februa aka Februare or Februatio was one of the rituals people would partake in during the celebrations and it literally means ‘purification’. It was a purification ritual used to drive away evil spirits and supposedly guarantee fertility during the spring season. The Lupercalia also involved an activity where the men would sacrifice a dog and a goat. They would be drunk and naked and would literally whip the women with the hides of the animals they had just killed. They believed that this would increase fertility and make for an easier childbirth. Festivities also included ‘the love lottery’, where young men would draw women’s names from a jar. The woman would be paired with the man; whether she liked it or not and participate in all manner of erotic games and sexual excesses for the duration of the festival. Another notable activity was the gathering of ancient Luperci priests dressed only in goatskin at the boundaries of the ancient city of Rome. This activity was carried on right up until the time of Julius Caesar; the master of the Luperci college of priest at that time was Marc Anthony. The Pagan calendar still acknowledges the festival of Lupercalia even today with many pagans claiming that it is an annual celebration of ‘love, lust, desire and community’.
The events surrounding how the Lupercalia festival became St. Valentine’s day goes a little something like this; In the 3rd century A.D., Emperor Claudius executed two Christian men. One was a priest who married couples in secret because emperor Claudius had previously banned all marriages in order to encourage more men to join the military. Per the story, he was caught and killed 269 A.D. The second man was a bishop from Terni, he was executed 271 A.D. Both these men were called Valentine and both of them were killed on February 14th albeit in different years. The catholic church honoured their martyrdom by establishing the celebration of St. Valentine’s day. Although some have questioned the authenticity of the St. Valentine stories, some believe that the two men are the same person due to the similarities. Others believe that the actual story of saint valentines was made up by the church as a way of eliminating the roman love gods Cupid, Eros and Juno Ferbruata.
Nonetheless, before the 5th century A.D. there was a clear distinction between St. Valentine’s day and Lupercalia. However, Pope Gelasius decided to confuse matters in 496 A.D. by combining saint valentine’s day with Lupercalia in an attempt to expel the pagan rituals once and for all. Another syncretism that makes no sense. Why amalgamate? Why not create and celebrate on an entirely new day if you must. As established in my Christmas post(…AND SO IT BEGINS), much of the pagan traditions and cultures were amalgamated and snycretised in order to fit in with catholic traditions and attract early pagans to Christianity. Where does this logic of combining pagan traditions i.e. nimrod, Sunday worship and now valentines’ day with Christian traditions in order to make converting to Christianity easier come from? It makes no sense to me. I still stand by the view that the early rulers/catholics wanted to double dip. So instead of doing away with these traditions. They simply reinvented them, and put a different name on them. That way they could still partake in pagan festivities but this time under a guise. By adopting some of the features of the pagan gods and goddesses of love, St. Valentine became the roman catholic patron saint of lovers. The roman god of love Cupid, was revamped as a cherub and the Lupercalia festivities continued as it always had just with clothes on and minus the blatant sexual excesses. Additionally, Noel Lenski, historian and specialist in Roman history adds “it was little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn’t stop it from being a day of fertility and love”. Fertility and love for the pagans and their gods, but Christians stopped the naked and whipping part and now all of a sudden it becomes a ‘Christian’ holiday. How swaaaay? Where in the bible does it say that? Last I checked valentine’s day is not one of the seven holy feast days. In fact, the catholic church removed the feast of Valentine from its general calendar in 1969; an attempt to eliminate those saints whose origins were primarily based on legendary accounts. This supports the aforementioned claim that the story of St. Valentine was merely fabricated by the church. Yet another tradition of man with its origins in paganism.
As time went on, writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer notably his ‘parliament of fowls’ poem and William Shakespeare in ‘Hamlet’, began to romanticize valentine’s day in their work thus it gained serious popularity throughout Britain and then the rest of Europe, before eventually spreading worldwide. This started the commercialization of valentine’s day as we know it today. To be honest I do not feel as strongly about not participating in valentine’s day as I do with Christmas because;
- Although valentine’s day originates from paganism. We do not partake in the rituals of sacrificing animals and whipping women with the slain hides. Or the three day sexual excesses.
- I do not think there is anywhere in the bible that specifically talks against valentine as we practice it today. i.e. teddies, gifts, dinner, jewellery etc. (I may be wrong though, please correct me if I am)
- Christmas is a different ball game altogether because, Although Christians like to say it is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday now. They have adopted the pagan traditions i.e. father Christmas/ nimrod, laying presents under the tree, yule logs, wreaths etc. And adopted the exact pagan traditions that God specifically condemns in the scriptures i.e. the Christmas tree see Jeremiah 10:4.
That being said, It is a holiday that I will no longer be partaking in (dear future husband… take note). I cannot remember the last time I actually had a proper ‘valentine’ on valentines day anyway, it has been that long. Although, my brothers bless them, always make sure to reach out to my mum my sister and I to say happy valentines buy gifts for us etc. I stopped being drawn to the idea of valentines in my early twenties if I am perfectly honest. Maybe a part of it stemmed from the fact that I rarely had a valentine so discarding it was a way of protecting my feelings or maybe it was because I saw it for the clever money making marketing ploy it was. Why do I need a day to celebrate the love I have for a partner? Love should be shown all year round (again…dear future husband) lol yes, I know the big cliché line. But it is true. I viewed valentine as another socially constructed day used to capitalize on the spending practices and extract money from love sick people by utilising emotive marketing and advertising techniques. And if you didn’t have a valentine you were made to feel terrible… below par. All socially constructed. Now, that knowledge coupled with the pagan origins of valentines has me content in my apathy for valentine’s day. This is the first year that I have actively decided not to participate in the whole ‘happy valentines’ thing so who am I to judge or knock those who choose to do so? I understand just how difficult it is to break lifelong traditions and some may not deem it important. As always, I Just think it is essential to know the roots of the things we partake in #becauseknowledgeofselfisnirvana