Should a follower of YHVH celebrate Valentines Day?
February 14 is Valentines Day, the day on which we celebrate and explore love in all it's many ideals. How a day for lovers came to be celebrated during the middle of February is an interesting and ages old story. The story of Valentines Day begins during the heyday of the Roman Empire, which held a festival every February. This Lupercian Festival was held in honor of the God of Fertility and during the festivities young men would get to choose their mate. At the time marriage was a common occurrence, but when Claudius became Emperor he changed all of that. Fearing that men would refuse their duty to fight because they would not want to leave their wives behind, he outlawed all marriages. Young couples still fell in love though and still wished to marry and they took these desires to the Catholic Bishop Valentine who, understanding love, began to secretly marry couples. When Claudius found out, he had Valentine arrested and ordered put to death. While waiting in jail, Valentine began exchanging letters with the jailer's daughter and soon had fallen in love with her. The day he was to be beheaded, he wrote her one last note and signed it: "˜From Your Valentine'.
In 496 A.D. Christianity had taken over Rome and Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagen Lupercian Festival. Knowing it's popularity, he looked to replace it with something more "˜appropriate' and set aside a day in February to honor the martyr St. Valentine. Even though in 1969 the church removed St. Valentines Day from it's calendar of "˜official' holidays, it is still widely celebrated today.
Valentines Day is perhaps best known for its cards. This is a custom whose origins could stem from any number of places. One belief is that the tradition began when St. Valentine himself passed notes to the jailer's daughter. Another story is that children used to pass notes to St. Valentine while he was in jail. He was so popular that even after his death the children still placed noted through the bars in his empty cell. A third story as to the origin of passing out cards stems from a French Count who was captured and imprisoned in London. From his cell he wrote his wife letters, including a passionate set of poems which he sent to her in February. However it truly started, Valentines Day cards are now sent at the rate of one billion a year, setting it just behind Christmas as the most popular card sending holiday. Valentines Day cards have been around in one form or another for hundreds of years. They became popular in the 1700's as handmade cards made with satin and ribbon and lace among other fineries. By the early 1800's, commercial valentines began to appear. Some were so ornate that they cost upwards of ten dollars. An amazing sum for those times. By the 1840's cards were so intricate that some had moving parts. Up until the late 1800's, all of the mass-produced Valentines Day cards were made in England and other European countries. In the early 1870's a 19-year-old American woman named Esther Howland had the idea to begin producing commercial Valentines Day cards in America. She started out with three friends and her brother and in assembly line fashion began producing hand-crafted cards which were shipped around the country. By the end of the decade she was making over 100,000$ a year. At the turn of the century, a new form of Valentines Day card appeared the "˜Penny Dreadful'. Up until this point, cards were relatively expensive but the Penny Dreadful changed all that. They were just what the name implied, costing only one cent and completely bad. The cards were cheaply made, the artwork was amateurish and the coloring was uneven. On top of that the verses printed on them were not the most romantic of prose. They were more often "˜insults', taking swipes at old maids, teachers and the like. Still their low cost kept them popular for years.
Like many holidays, Valentines Day is a day of symbols. Walking around in the first few weeks of February, you can't turn a corner without seeing a red rose. The rose was sacred to Venus who is the Goddess of Love. Another popular symbol of the day are birds, particularly doves and lovebirds. These are two birds which mate for life and it was once believed that they choose their mate in the middle of February. Of course no Valentines Day would be complete without a multitude of hearts. It was once believed that the heart was the center of all emotion. People believed that when they gave a heart, they were truly giving all of the love and emotion that they possibly could give. In the Middle Ages men would pull a woman's name out of a bowl. This would be the man's Valentine. To show his devotion, the man would wear the paper containing the woman's name on his sleeve for a week. This soon became known as "˜wearing your heart on your sleeve'. And Valentines Day wouldn't be the same without a visit from Cupid, the winged cherub with a bow and arrow which he uses to place people into love.
The origins of Cupid can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire. Cupid is a Roman God, the symbol of passionate love. (He is the son of Venus, who remember is the Goddess of Love.) Cupid fell madly and completely in love with Psyche, whom it happened was a mortal. This did not please Venus at all and she gave Psyche a particularly hard time, consistently tempting her and driving her off. Eventually, through a small series of human faults, Psyche was tempted to look into the "˜box of beauty' and when she did, she unleashed a deep slumber onto herself. Cupid then came to Earth and searched the world for her. He found her in her deep sleep. His love for her was so strong though that he was able to take the sleep from her and place it back into the box. Then he used an arrow to pierce her heart and awaken her.
Besides giving cards, candy and kisses there are some other interesting customs (both current and past) associated with Valentines Day. For instance, in England children take to the street, singing songs and passing out cards. In Denmark people give out pressed white flowers as a sign of their affection. In the 1700's, English women would write the names of men on small pieces of paper and then roll the paper up inside little balls of clay. They threw the balls into the water and the first paper that popped to the surface was the one with the name of the woman's true love. A popular belief is that if a woman goes to a graveyard and runs around reciting a certain chant, she will see an image of her true love. A similar idea held over from years past is that on Valentines Day a woman is to sit by her window. The first available man that walks by is the one who is destined to marry her.
There is a dark footnote that must be added to the history of this special day. The date: Valentines Day 1929. The place: Chicago. The event: The St. Valentines Day Massacre. It is still not completely clear who all of the players were that were involved and what the exact motives were, but this much is know: seven men were viciously gunned down in a Chicago garage. The men who did the shooting were dressed as police officers and were members of Al Capone's gang. The men who were shot were of a rival bootlegging operation. This was of course not the only gangland killing of the time, but it has grown to symbolize the mood and actions of Prohibition.
So as to not end on a dour note, a Bruskin-Golding study of the holiday discovered that 3% of all pet owners buy a Valentines Day gift for their pet.
of middle of February with love and fertility goes back to ancient times. While
ancient Athenians celebrated it as the month of Gamelion to celebrate the
marriage of Greek Gods - Zeus and Hera, ancient Romans celebrated the Feast of
Lupercalia to honor the Roman Gods of fertility - Lupercus and Faunus.
February Celebrations in Ancient Athens
Ancient Athens celebrated the period between mid January and mid February as the month of Gamelion. They dedicated the festival month to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. In Greek mythology Zeus was the supreme ruler of the ancient Greek Gods while Hera was the Goddess of women, marriage and childbirth.
February Celebrations in Ancient Rome
Ancient Romans celebrated the ides of February as the festival of Lupercalia to secure fertility and keep out evil. The Feast of Lupercaliawas dedicated to the Roman Gods of Agriculture, Lupercus and Faunus along with Romulus and Remus - the legendary founders of Rome. A precursor of this festival was celebrated on February 14. The day was observed as a holiday in honor of Juno - the Queen of Roman Gods and Goddesses and also regarded as the Goddess of Women and Marriage.
During the February Fertility Festival of Lupercus, members of Lupercali an order of the Roman priests would gather in a sacred cave where Romulus and Remus are said to have been nurtured by she-wolf or lupa. To mark the beginning of the festival, priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. Young boys used to slice the goats hide into strips and dipped them in sacrificial blood. Later, boys clad in animal skin would run about the streets of Rome holding pieces of goatskin above their head and gently slapping women and fields with the animal hide. Womenfolk gladly received the slap, as they believed that touch of the goatskin would render them fruitful and bring easy childbirth. Because the youths impersonated male goats (the embodiment of sexuality), the ceremony was believed to be in honor of Fanus.
Another unique custom of Feast of Lupercalia was the pairing of young boys and girls who otherwise lived a strictly separated lives. During the evening, all the young marriageable girls used to place a chit of their name in a big urn. Each young man used to draw out a name of a girl from the urn and became paired with that girl for the rest of the year. Quite often, the paired couple would fall in love and marry.
Later, when Christianity spread through Rome, the custom of finding a mate through lottery was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. People felt that mates should be chosen by sight and not luck. Around 498 AD, Pope Gelasius declared 14th February as Valentine's Day to honor saint Valentine of Rome - the patron saint of love and lovers. Even in present time lovers all over the world celebrate the festival of Valentine's Day with joy and verve.
archives talk of at least three different individuals known by the name of Saint
Valentine and associated with Valentine's Day celebration of February 14. Some
scholars even talk of the presence of as many as seven Saint Valentine all of
whom lived in the Third Century and apparently died on February 14. Discussed
here are the legends of three saints who were all martyred for their faith and
have been recognized by the Catholic Church. Some scholars say that these saints
were not separate individuals and are likely to be one and the same. Since these
saints lived during the reign of the same Roman emperor and are believed to have
died on the same day, this assumption seems to have some validity.
About Saint Valentine of Rome - Legend I
One of the most popular Saint Valentine associated with Valentine's Day festival is said to have lived in Rome when the country was under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. It is said that Emperor Claudius was hard-hearted king who continuously engaged Rome in bloody battles. But in order to keep fighting, he needed to keep recruiting soldiers. However, to his disappointment Claudius found that men were not willing to join army because of their attachment with their wives and families. In order to get rid of the issue, Claudius passed a callous decree that banned engagements and marriages in Rome. He also said that any priest who married a young couple would be put to death.
Young men and women found a savior in Valentine or Valentinus a romantic at heart priest. Even at the cost of his life, Valentine stood against the unjustified order and secretly arranged marriages with the help of Saint Marius. When Claudius finally found out about Valentine's defiance, he was brutally beaten up and put to prison. Later, Valentine was put to death on February 14, about 270 AD. For his martyrdom and service towards lovers Valentine was named a saint after his death.
By Middle Ages, Saint Valentine had become the patron saint of love and lovers in England and France. So, when Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to pagan celebrations of Feast of Lupercalia, he declared in 498 AD that 14th February be celebrated as Saint Valentine's Day. Since then lovers began to express their love on the martyrdom day of Saint Valentine.
About Saint Valentine of Rome - Legend II
According to another popular legend related to Valentine's Day, a saint called Valentine was an early Christian in Rome who loved children a lot. However, at that time Rome was not in favor of Christianity and it even persecuted Christians to ensure that Rome remains free of followers of Christianity faith. In spite of this law, St Valentine continued to practice Christianity and refused to worship Roman Gods. When Emperor Claudius came to know of this defiance, he put Valentine into a rigorous imprisonment for a year. It is said that when Valentine was in jail, little children began to feel sad as they missed Valentine so much. They even used to toss loving notes and flowers from the bars in the prison window.
Some scholars say that during his stay in prison Valentine fell in love with jailer Asterius's blind daughter(whose name may have been Julia), who used to bring for him flowers and notes from children. It is said that day's before his execution, Valentine prayed for his sweetheart and she regained her eyesight. Valentine also wrote a farewell note to jailer's daughter a signed it “From Your Valentine”. This phrase became quite popular amongst the lovers and is still very much in vogue. Some scholars say we remember his death on Valentine's death by sending kind messages to our friends.
Some historians believe that Valentine was executed because he tried to help some Christian prisoners escape from the prison as they were being treated badly. Some also believe that because of his good behavior Valentine was even given a chance by Claudius to change his faith. But Valentine not just refused, he tried to convert Claudius to Christianity. This enraged Claudius and he finally passed orders for his execution. Saint Valentine was beheaded on February 14 269 AD or 270 AD.
About Saint Valentine - Bishop of Interamna - Legend III
Some scholars talk about the presence of yet another Saint Valentine related to Valentine's Day celebration of February 14. This Valentine was a Bishop residing in Interamna (today known as Terni) in Italy in the Third Century. He is said to have dedicated his life to the Christian community of Terni, becoming the first Bishop of the town. People adored Bishop Valentine and the fame of his holiness and miracles reached Rome. Valentine's was also linked with love because he is believed to be the first religious personage to oversee the celebration of marriage between a pagan man and a Christian woman. This Saint Valentine is believed to have been scourged, imprisoned and beheaded by Placidus, Prefect of Interanma. The relic bones of this Saint Valentine are housed in a basilica in Terni. To commemorate the saint, every year on February 14, the town of Terni hosts exhibitions, fairs and cultural events.