Tag Archives: February 14

The Month of Valentines

(2015-08-18 031)When I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to have “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties. And people came. Men, women, couples, singles, straight, gay, all came because we shared the same belief: the sappiness of an insipid holiday.

I’ve always believed that one should be romantic and do nice things for one’s significant other–whether married or just dating–all the time. Why would someone need a holiday to do this once a year when one does it constantly throughout the year? My philosophy.

(2015-08-18 026)While in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, I went through some things in my storage bin (something else that needs cleaned), and I came across some of the decorations I used for the parties. So, I brought them back to New York with me.

Part of my contempt for Valentine’s Day stems from misinformation.  According to Catholic Online, not much is known about Valentine and there (2015-08-18 029)are various stories told about him; he may have been two men who were merged into one saint, like Saint Nicholas. However, none of them deal with him in a romance with anyone. The story I know best is that he was imprisoned for being a Christian and he made friends with his jailer’s daughter, to whom he taught Christianity. On the day of his death (which may have been February 14, although no one seems to agree on the year), Valentine left his friend a note telling her to be faithful and to continue to believe. It was signed, “Your Valentine.”

(2015-08-18 027)So, the story was one of conversion. Other stories talk of him marrying Christian couples and even trying to convert Emperor Claudius II, which did not work. In any event, besides being the patron saint of lovers and married couples, he is also the saint of beekeepers, the engaged, young people, epilepsy, greetings, fainting, travelers and plague. Because there was so little known about Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church removed him from their General Calendar, but he’s still considered a saint.

(2015-08-18 028)More intriguing to me is the assertion, cited by Catholic Online, of two 18th century English antiquarians that Valentine’s Day was established to off-set the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which is February 15. This makes complete sense to me.

I already did a post on Lupercalia. For that matter, I also discussed Valentine’s Day, but I fleshed it out a bit more by including Catholic Online information.

For those of you who need Valentine’s Day, enjoy. For the rest of us, it’s just another day.

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February 15: Lupercalia

I’ve always preferred Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day.

I used to have wonderful “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties back in Pittsburgh. I had couples and singles coming to the parties. Once I had all the people working in a bakery come out to see who had ordered the cake with the cracked heart and the black roses. They could not conceive that someone could not like Valentine’s Day, and they assumed that I had been “jilted” or “stood-up” when, in reality, it’s just a insipid holiday.

Anyone who needs a day set aside to be romantic or passionate really should be alone.

The most popular story I heard was that Valentine was a Roman soldier who had converted to Christianity. Imprisoned for his beliefs, he befriended his jailer’s daughter, who asked him about Christianity. So, secretly, Valentine taught her about the new religion, and she converted.  Taken to his death, Valentine left a message for his new convert, to maintain her faith in Christ, and he signed it “from your Valentine.” No passion. No romance. Just Christianity being spread from devotee to convert.

Pan (modern statue created by Oberon Zell)

Pan (modern statue created by Oberon Zell)

In contrast, Lupercalia dates to ancient Rome, long before the empire. The festivities would start at the Lupercal cave, which is where Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf. From here, naked young men, wearing belts of animal skin and carrying strips of goat hide, would run around the Palatine. Anyone encountered would be struck by the goat hide strips. This was a form of fertility magic that ensured that crops–and people–would be fruitful.

The ancient Romans weren’t sure who was supposed to be honored at Lupercalia. Certainly Faunus, the ancient pastoral god identified with the Greek gold Pan, was honored at the celebration, but because it all started at the Lupercal cave, there were ties to Romulus and Remus as well. (Lupa is the Latin word for wolf.) Livy claimed that Inuus, the god of sexual intercourse, was originally honored before he became identified with Faunus. In the time of Augustus a new god, Lupercus, was created as the honoree of the celebration.

In an attempt to “sanitize” Lupercalia and bring it into Christianity, Pope Gelasius I in 494 made February 15 the Festival of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.

For traditionalists, however, February 15 will always remain Lupercalia–a much more “earthy” alternative to Valentine’s Day.

Adkins, Lesley, and Roy A. Adkins. Dictionary of Roman Religion (New York: Facts on File, 1996).

Stapleton, Michael. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1978).

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