Valentine’s day originally stems from a Pagan fertility festival celebrated in pre-christian Rome called Lupercalia.
“Celebrated at the ides of February, or Feb. 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus,” according to history.com.
The festival commenced with the sacrifice of a goat for fertility, and a dog for purification.
“They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets,” according to history.com. There, naked women would line up to be struck with the hides by men because they believed it would make them more fertile.
“Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn,” according to history.com. “The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. Often times they would marry if the match were right.”
Where did the name Valentine come from?
The Roman emperor Emperor Claudius II executed Valentine sometime in the third century AD on Feb. 14th, and there’s still question if there was one man named Valentine or two, according to catholic.org.
A few common stories told about St. Valentine include one where he made a blind girl see, he got arrested for marrying Christian couples (who were at the time persecuted by Claudius) and he tried to convert people to Christianity, according to catholic.org. In honor of his martyrdom, and possibly another Valentine who did one or none or all of those things, the Catholic Church began celebrating Valentine’s Day.
“St. Valentine is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers and young people,” according to catholic.org.
How do these holidays relate?
Some researchers claim that modern day Valentine’s day gathered some of its traditions and practices from Lupercalia, while others reject this.
Originally, these two holidays/feasts don’t relate or correlate much at all, except for how close they are in date on the calendar. In the 5th century, it’s said that the Catholic pope, Pope Gelasius I decided to combine “St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals,” according to npr.org.
In the Middle Ages, Shakespeare came along with his use of iambic pentameter to sweeten up the holiday. Then came the industrial revolution in America, and eventually in 1913, “Hallmark first offered Valentine’s Day cards… and began producing them in 1916,” according to Hallmark.com.
Now we have what we celebrate today. One might say we participate in a Christianized or even commercialized version of Lupercalia. Others may disagree.