What’s the history of Valentine’s Day? Here are two historical reasons for the holiday as well as a radically appropriate way to celebrate the holiday in this era.
Have you ever wondered what’s the history behind Valentine’s Day? As it turns out, the origins of Valentine’s Day are as clear cut as a toddler’s self-inflicted haircut. But two stories stand out as being possible precursors of the February holiday. Our first story is of an event that was legal yet awful. The second is of an event that was illegal yet beautiful.
The Feast of Lupercalia
First, there’s the Feast of Lupercalia. It was an ancient pagan festival in Rome celebrated each February 15. Before the Christianization of the empire, it was quite a raucous and lewd occasion, involving naked priests sacrificing animals and then using the hides to publicly whip women in order to enhance the women’s fertility. During the festival, men would also randomly draw the name of a woman from a jar and then spend the night together. Again, legal yet awful.
The Legend of St. Valentine
Second, there’s the legend of St. Valentine. (It’s more accurate to say “one of many legends regarding one of many Valentine’s.”) We are told that the Emperor Claudius in AD 270 needed more men for soldiers in his army. Because married life was the main thing holding men back, Claudius banned marriages in Rome.
“What Valentine did was illegal yet beautiful.”
A priest named Valentine continued to marry young couples in secret. When this was discovered, Claudius had the priest executed. What Valentine did was illegal yet beautiful.
Being Countercultural Today
We are approaching the time when, again, public lewdness and random hookups are seen as normal and commonsense. At the same time, getting married and staying married is increasingly countercultural. Our longtime admiration for lifetime monogamy (staying committed to one partner for life) is increasingly seen as not just old-fashioned, but actually harmful. And the ideal of a getting married and having lots of kids? More kids on the planet is increasingly seen as the “world’s top problem.”
“One of the most countercultural things you will do is get married, stay married, have kids, and raise them to love Jesus.”
In a culture obsessed with redefining reality, one of the most countercultural things you will do is get married, stay married, have kids, and raise them to love Jesus. A few years ago, this path was seen as normal and healthy. It’s becoming radically nonconformist.
So, to my fellow happily married nonconformists, Happy Valentine’s Day!