A Pagan Festival in February – The origins of Valentine’s Day
Many believe that the celebration of Valentine’s Day which happens to be mid-February is used to commemorate Valentine’s death or burial anniversary which took place around A.D 270.
Some others believe that the Christian Church might have decided that mid-February was the best time to place Valentine’s feast in other to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. The Lupercalia festival was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture and the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. It was a fertility festival.
This festival begins with a gathering of the members of the Luperci, an order of Roman Priests at a sacred cave where the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by the she-wolf or lupa. Usually, a goat was offered as a sacrifice for fertility and a dog for purification. The hide of the goat would be stripped into strips, dipped into the sacrificial blood and taken to the streets. This hide would be used to slap women and crop fields gently; Roman women were receptive to the touch of this hide as it was believed to increase their fertility in the coming year. According to legends, it was alleged that all the young women in the city would place their name in a big urn while the city’s bachelors would each choose a name from the urn. Whoever they chose became his woman for the year. Often, this pairing ended in marriage.
Valentine’s Day: A Day of Romance
The Lupercalia festival was outlawed at the end of the 5th century after Pope Gelasisus declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. The rise of Christianity made this possible as it was deemed unchristianlike. During the middle ages, the common belief in England and France were that February 14th marked the beginning of birds’ mating season, this also fueled the idea that Valentine’s Day should be considered a day for romance.
Valentine greetings gained popularity as far back as the Middle Ages, though it didn’t appear in written form until after 1400. A poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans in 1415 to his wife, remains the oldest known valentine in existence today. This letter was written while he was in prison in the Tower of London after his capture at the battle of Agincourt. This greeting has since become part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. There’s also a belief that John Lydgate who was a writer was hired by King Henry V to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.