Tuesday is Valentine’s Day and most people celebrate it as a holiday of love and romance. We celebrate by the giving and sending cards (about 1 billion Valentine’s Day card are sent each year; second only to Christmas), candy, and flowers. Part of the celebration often includes a romantic dinner or a trip to a romantic place. I’ve always had a theory that the “holiday” is actually a conspiracy created by a conglomerate of CEOs from the Greeting Card, Chocolate and Flower Companies. However, as is the case with many holidays, the origin of the celebration of Valentine’s Day is quite interesting.
In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honor Juno, the goddess of women and marriage. The following day, February 15th, began the Feast of Lupercalia. The high mark of the feast was a drawing in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a box. The girl assigned to each young man in that manner would be his girl-friend for the coming year. This was an efficient way to find a suitable mate. If at the end of that year (the next February 15th) the couple wished to no longer be together he would draw again and spend another year courting another prospective mate.
During this time Emperor Claudius determined that married men made poor soldiers. In an effort to strengthen his army he banned his soldiers from marriage and did away with the ritual that often led to the finding of one’s life mate. In defiance of the ban on the marriage of soldiers, a priest named Valentine began the practice of secretly marrying soldiers and their sweethearts. When the emperor Claudius discovered what Valentine was doing he was immediately imprisoned. While in prison he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Shortly before he was beheaded he sent his love a farewell message which he signed, “from your Valentine.”
In spite of the death of Valentine and the halting of the name-drawing ritual, Roman men continued to seek the affection of the young women especially at this time of year. Traditionally, the men would give their cherished ones handwritten messages of affection, containing Valentine’s name.
Even to this day, in America and around the world, notes of affection are passed, with the message, “Be my Valentine.” In Genesis, the Scriptures tell us, “And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” …And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Love, romance and marriage are wonderful gifts from God. They should be nurtured, and cherished throughout the year. But especially at this time of romantic ritual, remember the one you love and thank God that you found each other!