Is Valentine’s Day A Christian Holiday?
THE ORIGIN OF VALENTINE'S DAY The idea that Valentine’s Day is a Christian holiday revolves around the fact that it is a day named after Saint Valentine, or Valentinus. Saint Valentine was a Roman priest in
THE ORIGIN OF VALENTINE’S DAY
The idea that Valentine’s Day is a Christian holiday revolves around the fact that it is a day named after Saint Valentine, or Valentinus. Saint Valentine was a Roman priest in the third century AD, and there are several stories surrounding his death and what led up to it.
Probably the most popular of those stories was that Emperor Claudius II decided to ban marriages of those under his rule. It was his opinion that men who were married could not be good soldiers, primarily because their fidelity was more for their wives than the army for which they fought. Valentine did not think this was at all fair. In his moral opinion, he decided to go against the decree of the Emperor and went on to marry couples in secret.
Once Emperor Claudius got word of what was happening behind his back, he was enraged. He threw Valentine into prison where he was promptly sentenced to death. It was during this time that Valentine is said to have fallen madly in love with the daughter of the jailer. On the day he was scheduled to die, February 14, 269 AD, he sent her one final love letter, declaring his unending love and devotion to her. His signature simply read, “from your Valentine”.
Another legend states that Valentine restored the sight of the judge’s daughter during his time in prison. Again, the legend ends with his writing a letter to this young lady, simply signed, “Your Valentine”.
In fact, the entire idea of sending cards and other signs of affection are all said to date back to this one letter, sent right before Valentine’s execution. All around the world, the custom changes very little, with gifts, flowers, chocolates and more being left for children and loved ones.
The Tradition of Valentine’s Day
The first Valentine’s Day is said to have taken place all the way back in 496 AD. It was at this time that Pope Galesius added the death date of Valentine of Rome to the saint’s calendar. Relics of Valentine have been kept at the Church and Catacombs of San Valentina in Rome, the Church of Santa Prassede, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, and the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, in Ireland.
The idea of a day set apart for love was a tradition that originated from a Roman festival known as Lupercalia. This festival was held in the middle of the month of February, which officially began springtime in Rome. During the festivities, boys would draw girl’s names from a box and, as long as the festival was underway, these boys and girls would become boyfriend/girlfriend. Some of them were even married, later on. Others state this festival was sexual in nature, celebrating fertility.
Later still, the church decided to turn this particular festival into a Christian-based celebration. They cited their remembrance of the beloved Saint Valentine as their reasoning for this. It was not long before Valentine’s name became a common gesture associated with the expression of one’s love for another, thus the adopted name, “Valentine’s Day”.
No Real Connection
There has been no real hard evidence of the actual link between the Roman festival and Valentine’s Day, however, even though many authors claim it to be so. In fact, there were probably no real romantic leanings at all until Chaucer’s time. It was during the fourteenth century that he first wrote about “Valentines Day” in such a manner.
In reality, the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was a rite that was connected to fertility and not actual romantic love. It is also claimed that Emperor Galesius replaced this festival, which he banned, with the celebration of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to connect the festival with romantic love. Again, there is no historical proof that this was, in fact, carried out at all.
The Chaucer Connection
In actuality, Valentine’s Day, and the romantic connotations that go along with it, first came about when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote Parlement of Foules in 1392. It was a poem written to honor the engagement of King Richard the 2nd, who was then King of England, to Anne of Bohemia.
The line in the poem reads: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” Many stories abound as to what specific festival, if any, Chaucer was referring to, but in reality, there was no record of any such tradition before the time of this poem. Other authors also wrote about the mating of birds on Valentine’s Day as well, including Otton de Grandson, John Gower, and a knight known as Pardo.
Most people assume that Chaucer’s work was the first to make mention of Valentine’s Day, however it is impossible to say with certainty which one actually penned the words first, thus influencing all the others.
Should Christians Celebrate Valentine’s Day?
There is much to be said about whether or not Christians should celebrate Valentine’s Day, viewed as many as being a pagan holiday, originally. Many say that God’s hatred for paganism dictates that we, as Christians, should most certainly NOT celebrate this day, even though the Catholic church “Christianized” it the best way that they could.
Those on that far side of the fence state that God does not allow for the worship or celebration of any idol, of anything He Himself created (such as the sun, stars, moon, trees, etc.), or anything else other than the One True God. Scriptures backing up this line of thought include Leviticus 18:3, 24-30, along with many more.
There are even specific reasons NOT to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and here are a few of them.
- Valentine’s Day is rooted in paganism. If anyone studies this out, they will see that, historically speaking, there is really no argument about this fact. God considers pagan celebrations an abomination, so great caution should be exercised when considering the facts.
- Christians should flee from the possibility of sexual immorality. While loving one another is a commandment of Jesus Himself to all of His followers, He was not talking about romantic love. Valentine’s Day, however, focuses on this romantic love and exploits it. In many cases, this leads to lust, which is a sin, and then the actual act of fornication or sexual immorality.
- Real love needs no special day. As we said, Jesus commands that we love one another. In fact, love is the basis of the two greatest commandments, according to Jesus. One is to the love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the other is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that all the laws of the prophets hang on these two simple commandments. And we don’t think he meant for us to love more on any one particular day than another.
- In reality, Valentine’s Day can lead to gripping sadness for some people. On the one hand, there are those who have no significant other, and therefore have no one to “celebrate” with, or to receive gifts and trinkets from. On the other hand, there are those who become jealous of the “better” things that someone else got from their loved one. Love isn’t like this at all. When we love, our focus should be on the giving of it, rather than the getting.
- We should never try to conform to the world. While the idea of love in general is thought to be a good one, Valentine’s Day is still a holiday that is rooted in worldly traditions. We are called to be set apart from the world, not be a part of it. Furthermore, we are specifically told to not be unequally yoked together.
- Celebrating God’s Holy days are far more important than celebrating the world’s holidays. There are a total of seven festivals, listed in Leviticus chapter 23, from which to choose.
Of course, there are always those that see nothing wrong with celebrating Valentine’s Day, as well as other holidays that are supposed to be borrowed from pagan festivals. Their reasoning falls along the lines of the fact that we are so far removed from those things, that they hardly matter in today’s modern world.
Still, we should carefully weigh the traditions that surround these holidays against the way the Word of God says we are to live our lives. There are certain things we should not only stay away from, but also “flee” as the Bible says on occasion. With regards to Valentine’s Day, if you are single, you need to decide if the celebration you are planning could cause you to fall prey to any of these things. And decide carefully.
Overall, the Bible says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). This should always be our ultimate guide.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!