(The following first appeared on a February 14, 2005 posting in my previous blog hosted by Tripod. Here it is again with slight editing.)
Happy Lupercalia to all. Happy what? Well, have you wondered why you celebrate 14 of February aka Valentine's Day? I asked most of my friends through the years and nobody really knows. Some do it because they are Christians and it is kind of a Christian tradition (Saint Valentine). Others do it because it is a day of love or friendship.
Ever since I first took up the gigantic task of researching about religions many years ago, the subject of Valentine's Day sprung to my mind every few times. So I decided to find out more.
It was in the year 1997, when I had a chance to interview a Catholic priest as part of my research. We were talking mostly about what is in the bible and validity of most of the stuff in it. After a few hours of non-stop debating (and mind you, debating about the bible with a leading priest is quite a task), we decided to have a smoke break. Yes, he smokes too. Davidoff, I think. Then he asked me, "Son, why do you take this path?" I looked up at him with a puzzled face. He continued, "Why torture yourself to seek the truth when the truth is available right before your eyes in the Holy Book?" I took a whole minute and several puffs before answering him. "I think it is important for mankind to question everything that is being told as the truth. With all due respect sir, the Bible is a version of the truth, but not the truth itself." I told him that I have a huge respect for the various religions in the world especially Christianity, Judaism and Islam and I also respect him or else I wouldn't be smoking with a priest. We both laughed. It was at the moment, I asked him about Valentine's Day.
"Saint Valentine's Day," he said. I nodded. He asked me if I was doing anything on Valentine's Day that year. I joked by simply saying I had too many girlfriends therefore it's a headache on V-day. I then went on to ask him about the history of Valentine's Day. He told me the origin of Valentine's Day goes back to the third century, when two Christians named Valentine were martyred. There are various versions of the stories but he couldn't point to one that could be proven as the truth. He said that the Vatican lists 17 Valentines in the encyclopedia of saints. These are spread out among countries, including Italy, France, Spain and Germany, but the church does not designate any of the 17 as the Saint Valentine.
I wasn't too happy with his answers so I went back to my research. I came across a day celebrated by the pagan Romans, 14 February. Hey that's the same day as Valentine's Day. What I found is that the Romans celebrated February 14 to honor Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses, and that on February 15 they celebrated the Feast of Lupercalia in honor of Lupercus, the Roman god who watched over shepherds and their flocks. Young Roman males would sacrifice goats, put on the goatskins as a loincloth and then run around striking young women with thongs from the same goatskins. As Christianity became more widely accepted, pagan beliefs and celebrations were being replaced by the Church. The ancient Lupercalia was christianized and became Saint Valentine's Day to honour Saint Valentine.
I had a chance to meet the priest again on Valentine's Day that year. I told him what I found out about Valentine's Day, and that he was wrong. The whole V-Day thing originated from a pagan celebration and that the Church changed it so that people can celebrate it 'legally' in the eyes of the Church. He looked at me rather surprised that a young man would bother so much about the origins of such an unimportant day. He smiled after I finished telling him the story. He then walked me out and handed me a gift. It was a red aluminum case shaped like a heart. I opened it and there were chocolates inside. Now, how did he know I like chocs? There was also a small piece of note. It says, "Happy 14 of February, Saint IZ".