Americans will shell out $37 billion to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2014, according to a recent Business Wire report based on the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.
Of the 13 million who expect to be engaged by year’s end, according to the survey, nearly half will receive or plan their proposal on Valentine’s Day, making it the most romantic day of the year. Many couples also celebrate the day with flowers, cards, candy and images of a winged toddler named Cupid drawing back his bow and arrow.
But there is always more to a love story than sugar, spice and everything nice. For example, how did the most sentimental day of the year get started? Its origins proved to be a fascinating mixture of facts, folklore and ancient festivals blended with Greek mythology.
Take Cupid, for example. Most people would not associate the image of this winged child with being a god. But that is exactly what Cupid was to countless devout citizens in ancient Rome.
The Encyclopedia Mythica calls Cupid “The Roman god of love and the son of Venus. He is a small, winged boy, blindfolded, carrying bow and arrows. The arrows, once struck the heart, makes the victim fall in love.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Although some literature portrayed Cupid as callous and careless, he was generally viewed as beneficent, on account of the happiness he imparted to couples both mortal and immortal. At the worst he was considered mischievous in his matchmaking.”
This “mischievous” little god survived thousands of years and managed to thrive within the celebration known as Valentine’s Day. But Cupid is just one piece to this peculiar puzzle. Consider item No. 2: The ancient pagan festival, still celebrated to this day, called Lupercalia.
The World Book Encyclopedia says, “Valentine’s Day comes on the feast day of two different martyrs named Valentine. But the customs connected with the day probably come from an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, which took place every Feb. 15.”
Speaking about Lupercalia, Britannica states, “As a fertility rite, the festival is also associated with the god Faunus. Like Pan, Faunus was associated with merriment, and his twice-yearly festivals were marked by revelry and abandon.” The god Faunus, also called Lupercus, was prominently worshiped. He was the god of wild nature and fertility. On Feb. 15 — the founding date of his temple — Lupercalia was celebrated.
According to www.history.com., “Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed — as it was deemed “un-Christian” — at the end of the fifth century, when Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that Feb. 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.”
Then there is item 3: The priest or priests known as Valentine. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases and Fable said, “St. Valentine, a priest of Rome, was imprisoned for succoring (assisting) persecuted Christians. He became a convert and was clubbed to death. His day is 14 February. The ancient custom of choosing Valentines has only accidental relation to the saint, being essentially a relic of the old Roman Lupercalia.”
According to another legend, an imprisoned Valentine sent the first “Valentine” message after he fell in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged he wrote her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still popular today.
According to www.history.com., “One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.”
All of these facts and folklore mixed with revelries and Roman mythology took on a life of their own and evolved into the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Exactly how a priest named Valentine and a god named Cupid came to represent modern romance at the same time as a pagan festival called Lupercalia remains a mystery.
Many celebrations may seem sweet, but what if some festivities have been picked up from unclean places in the eyes of God? How will we view them? How does God want us to view them? Is the answer found in these words at 2Corinthians 6:14: “Can light have anything in common with darkness?” — GOD’S WORD Translation. You decide.
For many who have given their heart to God, there is nothing sweeter — not even on Valentine’s Day — than pleasing this holy and wonderful God of love.