The Real Meaning of Valentine's Day
Valentines Day – Is There A Deeper Meaning?
Ever wondered why on this one random day each year, people everywhere have a contest to see who can say “I love you” with the most flair?
Valentine’s Day, celebrated every year on the 14th of February, has many varied customs that help remember 3 martyred Catholic saints (we are told) and allow couples to celebrate their love for one another…but, maybe...just maybe...it’s time we took a look at the deeper history of this ancient celebrated day of the “love feast"!
It's interesting to realise that Valentine’s Day, though now associated with chocolates, expensive gifts, roses (symbol of Eros or Sexual Love) and sweet cards for the romantically involved or for those who want to be, originally had a different name.
Christianity Meets the Pagans (meaning “country dwelling gardeners) of the Roman Empire: Lupercalia
The non-Christian Pagan’s of the Roman Empire already had a romance-related celebration in mid-February: Lupercalia.
This holiday required that all of the houses (symbol of one’s body) be purified, first by sweeping and then with a sprinkling of salt and spelt, a type of wheat.
This prepared the ancients for the celebration in honour of Faunus, the god of agriculture (seeds and fertility), and Romulus and Remus, the twin gods of Rome who are given credit for building Rome on one of the 7 Hills along the Tiber River (vale means to flow as does a river…valen means to attract…entine means comes of entice/enthuseos, hence, “Valentine”…to flow with the attraction of sexual excitement.)
The origins of our modern Valentines Day was that it was an attempt to “Christianize” the pagans.
The Christians took all of the Pagan Celebrations and rewrote them to fit their own names and events.
Easter bunnies, hiding, searching and finding the eggs.
Christmas Santa’s, pine trees, etc.
During this time, pagan gardeners made offerings of fresh foods as gifts to Faunus as a Love Feast, meant for couples who were not expecting a child at the time, so they could then act as “eligible singles” to then choose a new romantic partner to have a baby with for the upcoming year through a lottery process.
This practice of union going for one year or until the birth of a baby was later seen as “unchristian” and “evil” and was later outlawed by the Church.
Valentine’s Day and Romance
Romance (erotic people of Rome) and Valentine’s Day are usually seen as being paired together, but the specific reason for this pairing goes back to a natural observation of “Nature”…
Even during medieval times, people in England and France observed and wrote that February 14th was the beginning of the mating season for birds.
Since animals were beginning to mate and pair off, people believed that there must be in nature itself a certain romantic aspect of the day.
The first Valentine cards began appearing around 1400 and were often exchanged among friends and lovers in all social classes.
What is believed to be the first Valentine card is on display in the British Museum, I got to see it myself in the late 1970′s.
Anciently they scratched an “I love You” into the skin and peelings of foods that looked like the heart, such as mangoes, tomatoes, capsicum (bell Peppers), etc.
Then they ate the food together in a “spirit of Love”.
Today, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest card-purchasing holidays in many countries, with customers buying more cards for this occasion than every other day except Christmas.
Valentine’s Day is often a day shrouded in red, pink, and white hearts, Cupids with Love arrows, chocolate, as it is believed to be an aphrodisiac, unicorns and romantic gestures.
Many of the ways in which the holiday is celebrated date back to ancient and medieval times and are still present in celebrations today.
Lupercalia: Wolf Festival a Celebration of Fertility
Lupercalia, sometimes called Februatio, was part fertility rite, part purification ritual, and part festival honouring the she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus.
In 375 BCE the Roman birth rate was still insufficient. They dedicated a temple to the Goddess Juno in her aspect as goddess of marriage, fertility, and childbirth.
The Romans claimed she had spoken from a bush during the taking of the Sabines saying, “The sacred goat must penetrate Italy’s mothers.”
The Lupercalia festival began on February 15th. The Luperci (wolf priests), sacrificed two male goats and a dog at the Lupercal (the cave where the she-wolf was said to have suckled Romulus and Remus).
The dog probably represented the wolves that the wolf god Lupercus was supposed to keep at bay as a protector of herds.
Two boys were then chosen to represent the legendary twins, and brought to the cave, where the priests anointed them on the forehead with the bloodied knives used in the sacrifice. The knives were immediately wiped on goatskins soaked in milk.
The boys would then join in the race of the Luperci, clad only in goatskin loin cloths. The Luperci used strips of the sacred goats’ skin, called Februa, to whip women in the streets and purify them. In this way, the women were afforded fertility and protection in childbirth.
On the eve of Lupercalia, February 14th, boys drew the names of girls by lot, sometimes pairing them as friends for months, for a year, or even as spouses for a lifetime, there was Liberty and Freedom to choose.
St. Valentine’s Feast Day
Pope Gelasius I outlawed the Lupercalia festival during his papacy c. 492 CE- 496 CE and replaced it in 496 CE when he decreed February 14th as “St. Valentine’s Feast Day”.
There were numerous early Christian martyrs named Valentine. One legend is that the Roman Emperor Claudius II ordered young men to remain single. He believed that bachelors were better soldiers.
Valentine, a priest, secretly married young Roman lovers and was sentenced to death for his defiance of the law.
In the 1969 revision of “The Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints” St. Valentine’s Feast was removed from the calendar,( as I mentioned above).
Valentine’s Day in Modern Times
Most people don’t think of Romulus and Remus, Roman mythology, ancient festivals, or of the early Christian church when celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Today, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romance and love in all its forms.
Children, family, friends, and lovers around the world exchange notes, cards, confections, flowers, and gifts with the special people in their lives.
Few of the original customs remain with us today, but much like the ancient Roman tradition on Lupercalia Eve, February 14th is still a day of choosing.
Men and women, young and old, in many places throughout the world will ask that special someone, “Will you be my Valentine?”
At the end of the day, in the 21st Century, Valentines is a day to remember that when people get together in a Spirit of Love, Caring and Kindness it is the Highest Good.