Long before Christianity began, the day we celebrate as Valentine’s Day [February 14th] was actually a holiday of the Roman Empire, known as Lupercalia. One of the god’s honored during this festival was Pan or Faunus, the god of nature. Another was June, the goddess of women and marriage. During the Lupercalia it was a popular custom for young men to draw the name of a young unmarried woman from a name-box. The two would then be partners or sweethearts during the time of the celebrations.
When the people of Rome became Christians, the name of this holiday was changed to Saint Valentine’s Day. It honored a priest and martyr of the early Church who made the ultimate sacrifice for love. The Emperor Claudius II needed soldiers for the Roman army. He felt that marriage settled men, and made them less eager to fight, and more eager to stay at home. And so he passed a law against marriage.
A priest by the name of Valentine saw how this saddened young couples in love, so he secretly married couples until he was finally discovered and condemned to death by the Emperor. While in prison, Valentine showed true love and concern for all, including his jailor. The jailer had a young daughter who was blind, but through a miracle, Valentine restored her sight. Just before his death in Rome on February 14th he wrote her a farewell message signed, From your Valentine…
Since the first Saint Valentine’s Day in the year 468, each February 14th, the image of Saint Valentine, with his true love for humanity and his willingness to sacrifice, was brought before the people. Love for the ancient Roman celebrations and customs was strong, Lupercalia traditions continued into the Middle Ages. To this very day our Valentine decorations bear an ancient Roman symbol of love ~ Roman cupids with their bows and love-arrows.
What started out to be a purely a Pagan holiday, adapted to Christianity, and brought into the present age has come a long way, perhaps so far that it has lost its real, Christian meaning. When celebrating the day, remember the giver of the gift. God himself, who is love – and invites us to show true Christian love, charity, and concern for those around us. Happy St. Valentine’s Day!