The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, an annual three-day ritual believed to ward off evil spirits and increase fertility, was held on Feb. 13 to 15.
Lupercalia (also known as Februatio, which is where we get the name for our month of February) was popular among many of the new converts to the quick-rising Catholic Church, and as Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays notes, “Everywhere that [mainstream] Christians came into power they immediately adapted the holidays and customs of the people to their own creed” (Robert J. Myers and the editors of Hallmark Cards, 1972, pp. 50-51).
Such was their course of action with this festival of Lupercalia. While Pope Gelasius officially condemned the pagan Roman festival and banned its observance at the end of the fifth century, many of its accompanying practices quickly appeared in a newly established holiday added by him to the official church list of feast days in A.D. 496—St. Valentine‘s Day.
Soon, people were no longer looking to obtain fertility by being beaten with strips of animal skin called februa. Instead, they turned their focus to St. Valentine, the patron saint of “engaged couples and anyone wishing to marry” (Celebrations, pp. 48-49), whose actual identity is even murkier than what connection he bore to romance.
What amounted to a renamed, refurbished Lupercalia then picked up steam, gradually adapting itself into the Valentine’s Day we know today, which included the added elements of Valentine cards and Cupid, the Roman god of erotic love.
Friendship and sending cards are wonderful things, and God is not opposed to romance at the right time in the right way. But does the pagan religious history of Valentine’s Day taint the modern practices? What does God have to say about observing pagan traditions, renamed or not?
Welp it is no different than Christians celebrating Christmas, Easter and a few other holidays that are on the calendar.
Many people are shocked to discover the origins of our most popular religious holidays. They are also surprised to find that the days God commands us to observe in the Bible—the same days Jesus Christ and the apostles kept—are almost universally ignored. Why? Also, why are today’s supposedly Christian holidays observed with so many rituals and customs that are not sanctioned anywhere in the Bible?