The Pen

Should Protestants Embrace Valentine’s Day?

Red roses, blue violets, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and teddy bears all ring of the erotic love between man and woman celebrated on a day we’ve come to know as Valentine’s Day. This day, celebrated annually on February 14th, is a day that has become embraced by all walks of life, both secular and religious, throughout the western world.

In fact, if you’ve been in any Protestant or Evangelical church for a while, you’ve likely sat through painstakingly horrendous eisegesis of passages from the Song of Solomon, to New Testament excerpts of God’s love for humanity by sending Jesus, in an attempt to tie Valentine’s day into something biblical.

But what is the origin of this holiday, and is it biblical?

Much is unknown of the identity of the man the holiday is named after, Saint Valentinus of Rome. In fact, there are several Roman Catholic Saints that carry the same name. However, it is known that the holiday originated as a liturgical feast in the Roman Catholic church. But it may be tied to an even darker origin. One Catholic source states:

The roots of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on Feb. 15. For 800 years the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus. On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and would then keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.

History Channel’s website describes the festival historically as follows:

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus….To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

So, while little is known about the man, St. Valentine, himself, we do know that the holiday is absolutely pagan in it’s most original form. In fact, the canonized Roman Catholic saint’s skull is on display in Rome, adorned with flowers and preserved in a gold case for all Catholics to venerate. So while it may not be absolutely certain that the holiday is rooted in the festival of Lupercalia, the Roman Catholic Church itself is the largest propagator of paganism that’s ever existed and is anything but Christian.

But does this mean we shouldn’t celebrate the day? Perhaps it’s merely a matter of conscience. Many holidays, like Christmas, have their roots in paganism as well, but the celebrations have continued for centuries in Christian homes and churches.

In some ways, this particular case could be like the meat that has been sacrificed to idols. 1 Corinthians 8 teaches that meat that has been sacrificed to idols may bother the conscience of some believers, and if it does, you would be sinning by continuing to eat it. However, if you don’t have a knowledge of the sacrifice, and your conscience is not bothered, you may continue to eat it without sinning.

It may apply in this particular case because Romans 14:5-6 says regarding days of celebration,

One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord…

So you must ask yourself if you are committing any sin by the observance of the day. Are you celebrating the day in accordance with the Scriptures, or are you observing it in any way in opposition to the Scriptures? Are you simply celebrating love in a godly relationship, or are you perverting God’s design for love in any way? If so, you’re sinning. If not, you’re probably fine. But if it still bothers your conscience, search the Scriptures and decide what you need to do.

Otherwise, men, it’s not too late… Go get your wife some flowers!

My beloved is mine, and I am his – Song of Solomon 2:16a