The facts vary as to how many Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually. The estimate ranges from 150 million to 1 billion! And that’s second to Christmas cards!
Either way, that’s a lot of well-intentioned love-thoughts sent out.
So how did all this Valentine’s Day hoopla begin? Much to our surprise, it turns out Valentine’s Day is tied to wolves! But how?
Lupicinus was a wolf charmer who lived among the ancient Greeks and Romans. He was gifted with the ability to communicate with wolves. I suppose we could call him a wolf-whisperer!
This became a needed skill to keep the wolves from attacking people and livestock as villages began to grow and infiltrate the areas where wolves lived.
A group of Roman priests, who called themselves “Luperci,” held an annual pagan fertility festival called Lupercalia from February 13th-15th. The rituals performed at this festival were believed to have sprung from Lupa, (keep in mind that the Latin word lupus means wolf) who supposedly was the she-wolf who nourished the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, in a cave when they were infants.
The fertility festival requirements were that two goats and two dogs be sacrificed. The skins from those animals were worn by the Luperci while thongs or cords were made from the remaining animal skins. Those cords were then soaked in the animal blood, and the Luperci would run though the city, hitting young girls with the blood-soaked thongs; they believed that this ritual would increase fertility as well as stop childbirth pains.
The Lupercalia also held a lottery at the onset of this festival where men would select from a jar the name of a young maiden who had entered the lottery. They would then pair up, and off they would go for days of sexual relations. In fact, their coition would last the entire time of the festival.
By the 5th century, pagan rites, which included this fertility festival, were against the law. They were considered “un-Christian.” During that time the reigning Pope Gelasius declared the 14th of February St. Valentine’s Day in hopes of distracting the populace from celebrating the pagan rituals such as Lupercalia and turning their attention to something more Christian-like.
It is believed that Pope Gelasius chose that name based upon St. Valentine, originally a priest who declared Emperor Claudius of Rome blasphemous when he issued a decree that there should be no more marriages because he believed married men did not make for good soldiers.
When Claudius heard what Valentine said about him, he had Valentine executed on February 14th. This act martyred Valentine, and he then became a saint. Eventually, a holiday was named after him that we know today as Valentine’s Day.
Other stories exist as well, suggesting how Valentine’s Day was born, such as when the Normans from Normandy, France, celebrated Galatin’s Day, another fertility celebration that meant “lover of women.” And then there is the story of that the medieval poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who, based upon his poem, “The Parliament of Fowls,” was believed to be the first to associate romance with the present Valentine tradition.
In his poem, Chaucer refers to birds, who, during their mating season, choose their partner, symbolizing choosing one’s Valentine.
From goats and dogs, she-wolves, and birds mating, to romance and what is now a billion-dollar business, Valentine’s Day has certainly evolved! And that is a good thing.
But I ask: Has it evolved enough?
The idea that love can be squeezed into one day and meet the demands of the heart is a stretch at best.
Love—romantic, brotherly, or parental—needs to be employed and entertained daily. After all, love needs to be the reason that we do what we do. Love should be the motive of the heart as well as the soul.
But love seems to take a back seat, and sometimes ends up being thrown into the trunk very quickly, when challenges arise in relationships.
In that one moment, that one person whom you believed was your Valentine can, in an instant, become your foe.
So, what is it that happens? How can something so beautiful turn into something so ugly?
I suppose that depends upon what hands you placed your heart in.
In the book of Psalms 28:7, it is written, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts,…”
We can hope that the love we feel for someone will endure and bear much fruit. We can anticipate that the love we have for that special one will last a lifetime. After all, we are just human beings, doing what we believe is our highest understanding to express and reflect love. But how is love supposed to look and act?
In I Corinthians 13:4-7, the apostle Paul wrote, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (ESV)
That’s a high standard to uphold! And yet though we may fall short of, and sometimes very short of, that profound directive from Paul, love remains the one commodity that we all pay dear prices for. To live without love is like not living at all.
I will confess that I have placed my heart in many hands that returned it to me shattered, shocked, and darkened. However, after it regained its health, I commenced on the journey of love and to be loved. And along the way, I found many Valentines.
To give of your heart may seem risky, but to not give of your heart seems lonely.
Mother Teresa said, “I have found the paradox: that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. “
From my heart to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day!
ESV-English Standard Version