"Where did St. Valentine's Day come from? What should I tell our children about these customs?" SCHOOLS are supposed to educate children. Yet how many are taught in school the surprising origin of Valentine's Day?
Centuries before Christ, the pagan Romans celebrated February 15 and the evening of February 14 as an idolatrous festival in honor of Lupercus, the "hunter of wolves." The Romans called their festival the "Lupercalia." The custom of exchanging valentines — where did that originate? You might have supposed it is a Christian custom.
It is not!
Exchanging valentines and all the other traditions in honor of Lupercus — the deified hero-hunter of Rome — "have been handed down from the Roman festival of the Lupercalia, celebrated in the month of February, when names of young women were put into a box and drawn out by men as chance directed," admits the Encyclopedia Americana article, "St. Valentine's Day."
But how did these traditions come to be labeled "Christian" — when they are, in fact, pagan ?
When Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, there was some talk in church circles of discarding this pagan free-for-all. But the Roman citizens wouldn't hear of it! So Constantine, master politician that he was, agreed that the holiday would continue, except for a few of the more grossly sensual observances.
But how did this pagan festival acquire the name of "St. Valentine's Day"? Who was the original "St. Valentine"? Why is the little naked Cupid of the pagan Romans so often associated today with February 14?
Little children and young people still cut out hearts and send them on a day in honor of Lupercus the hunter of wolves — why? Why have we supposed these pagan customs in honor of a false god are Christian? Read the surprising answers in our reprint article on "St. Valentine's Day." It's free.