Valentine’s Day

Oh no. It’s here. Valentine’s Day… Let’s just be completely honest; it’s a thorn in most of our sides, and the thorn probably comes from the expensive bouquet of roses that are bought out of necessity. I know that I am completely sounding like a grump, and I apologize. And I do wish my wife a very happy Valentine’s Day, and she is the love of my life. Listen, I’m certainly not anti-romance, it just seems like V-Day is a little bit forced upon us. In light of the Hallmark Conspiracy theories that I’ve heard, I thought I’d research a bit and drop some knowledge about the origins of the day and why we celebrate.

The history of Valentine’s Day is an odd mixture of two completely polar opposite things. We’ll start with the pagan side of things and then discuss the more saintly aspect. In ancient Rome, there was a festival called Lupercalia. It lasted from February 13th to 15th and was about the most debaucherous party you could possibly imagine. Basically it was like a crazy fraternity toga party times 100. For three days, people would get completely inebriated and then randomly paired off together. No more explaining is necessary. This misguided “romantic” festival was celebrated for centuries but would eventually take on a different aspect.  

In the meantime, in ancient Rome the martyrdom of Christians was a common practice. Some emperors were more brutal and violent than others, but it was a fairly consistent threat. Claudius II, continuing the practice of persecution in the 3rd century, put to death two men. One was a priest and one was a bishop. They were both named Valentine.  There are various legends as to exactly why they were put to death, but it was most certainly because of their Christian faith in a country which at the time was very hostile to the church. 

Let’s fast forward to the 5th century where many things in the Roman world had changed. Under the reign of Constantine, Rome had become accepting of Christianity, to the point where it was actually quite popular. There has been much debate about the faithful sincerity of this popular Christian movement, but regardless, it was rapidly becoming the faith of the empire. Due to this movement, some of the pagan practices were transformed or altered. Instead of getting rid of all of the festivals, some of them were modified in honor of Christian figures and ideals. So it was no surprise when Pope Gelasius I placed the celebration and remembrance of the two Valentine martyrs upon the pagan festival of Lupercalia. The dates of the festival remained, but the pagan activities were mostly removed.  Thus, Valentine’s Day began, as a remembrance of two men martyred for faith. One of the martyred Valentines was claimed to have performed wedding ceremonies for young men soon to go off to war. So, St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, and the day kept its emphasis on love.

Now, obviously our modern adaptation has changed a lot and has little to do with the two men named Valentine. For any men reading this, I trust you’ve bought you’re flowers and chocolates for the lady in your life. Otherwise you could end up being another tragic Valentine.

Guiding real people to embrace a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ