Have you ever heard that nothing says “I love you” like candy and flowers and hearts on Valentine’s Day? Is this true? I mean, what’s with this February 14 romantic holiday where every year people spend millions of dollars trying to show love for each other?
Hi. I’m Wes White and welcome to another Bible Q&A on cgi.org.
One of the most confusing parts of Valentine’s Day is that it was named after a supposed saint named Valentine who we think lived in the third century. Yet, the main symbol of Valentine’s Day is Cupid, the adorable little pagan god of love. He’s that little guy who has wings and he’s dressed in a diaper and shoots arrows. Go figure.
We know very little about this St Valentine. Actually, there could have been two or more people in Roman history who this day represents.
But what’s really interesting about Valentine’s Day is that (you guessed it) it pre-dates Christianity just like Christmas and Easter pre-date Christianity. Yes, Valentine’s Day was originally a pagan day and that’s why we still have the pagan god, Cupid, associated with it.
The pagan Roman Empire had a February 15 holiday called Lupercalia. That day honored Faunus, the wolf god–the god of fertility. On that day every year 15, Roman men would sacrifice a goat and then playfully smack women on their rear ends with small whips. This is supposed to ensure fertility.
Later in the 3rd century, a Christian priest named Valentinus would perform secret marriages for couples that weren’t supposed to be getting married. He was later martyred. Before his execution, young lovers sent him notes that talked about the importance of love. These love notes were the first Valentine cards. Valentinus’ execution date was February 14 in the year 269 AD.
In history, we find two other Christians with similar names who were later executed in the Roman Empire.
After the Roman Empire declared Christianity to be the state religion, the emperor Gelasius (ga-LAY-see-us) decided to move people from worshipping the pagan god, Lupercus, by declaring February 14 as a holy day in honor of one of the Valentinus that had been martyred.
Then, in 1969, after 15 centuries of celebrating Valentine’s Day, the Catholic calendar dropped Valentine’s Day like a hot potato. This day is no longer recognized as a feast day or a celebration or a memorial of any martyrs. And yet, it has become a major commercialized holiday—generating millions of dollars a year for the industries that sell cards, candy, and flowers. The restaurant industry, the travel industry, and the hotel industry have now also jumped on the money-making wagon called Valentine’s Day. And, even though millions of people celebrate this day all over the world, hardly anyone thinks of this day as religious. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking of Christian martyrs while giving out Valentine cards.
People think it’s no big deal to associate a pagan god named Cupid with the death of a priest. To them, it’s not much different than associating bunnies and eggs with the resurrection of Jesus. It’s all just harmless fun, right?
As is almost always the case, people don’t care about the pagan roots of their celebrations. People are usually concerned only with doing whatever is popular and whatever is fun. They ignore the important Scriptures like:
Jeremiah 10:2 where God told His people not to follow the way of the heathen.
Mark chapter 7– “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men… (And) full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own traditions.”
These things may not matter to you, but they matter to God.
We hope you’ve found this message to be both interesting and informative. Please check out our website cgi.org for more information about the God’s Word. In the meantime, please keep reading your Bible. And please keep asking questions.