According to one version, Lupercalia (February 14) was a festival dedicated to the she-wolf. It was a she-wolf that was said to have nursed Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome. On this day the priests would sacrifice goats and a dog, smearing the animal blood on Roman youths, who were clad in goatskin thongs. These formed a band known as the luperci and they performed such antics as whipping bystanders with a goatskin strip (known as februa). Women lashed with the februa were thought to become fertile and bear children. In actuality, the festival of Lupercalia was held to celebrate fertility in the honor of the Roman god Lupercus, also called Faunus or Pan. He had the head and torso of a man, but the hindquarters and horns of a goat. The Greek god Pan was the god of herds and crops and in his celebration fertility rites were instituted.
The feast of the goddess Juno Februa was celebrated immediately after the feast of Lupercalia. Juno Februa was the Roman goddess of love, marriage and women. February was the month sacred to Juno Februata, the goddess of febris (fever) of love. For this feast, women wrote their names on slips of papers and men would take the slips out from an urn or container. The woman whose name was on the slip would become the man’s partner for the day’s erotic games and sexual orgies This sexual partnership would continue during the year, with the hope of culminating in marriage.
The Roman Emperor Constantine I accepted Christianity but pagan festivals continued in his empire and pagan customs were soon integrated into Christianity. In AD 494, Pope Gelasius I decided to suppress the perverted pagan festivals. He replaced Lupercalia with the Feast of the Purification of Virgin Mary. He also replaced the Feast of Juno Februata with St. Valentine’s Day and moved it to 14th February. The lottery of girls’ names was replaced by the lottery of the names of Christian saints, whose lives and character the youths were supposed to copy that day – in case they picked the name of that particular saint. Different stories were created by the Roman Catholic church to attribute this festival to one Saint Valentine, whose origins are obscure. It was clearly an attempt by the Roman Catholic church to whitewash the pagan celebrations with a label of Christianity.
The pagan Roman youth were not pleased with this ‘christianization’. They were not satisfied with the lottery of drawing saint’s names, and instead instituted a system of sending handwritten greetings of affection to girls they admired and wished to court. During the medieval age, the names of English maidens and bachelors were put into boxes and drawn out in pairs. Each couple exchanged gifts and the girl became the man’s sweetheart for a year. He wore her name on his sleeve and was duty-bound to protect her. From this custom comes the phrase “to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve’. In 1536 King Henry VIII (a great womanizer himself) declared that all England would celebrate February 14 as St Valentine’s Day. . By the 19th century Valentine’s Day cards painted with pictures of Cupid and hearts and decorated with lace, silk or flowers became fashionable. In due course, Valentine’s Day became the day for exchanging love messages and gifts (such as flowers and boxes of chocolate/candy). And St Valentine became the accepted patron saint of lovers.
What does the Bible tell us about heathen festivals? We are clearly warned not the learn the way of the heathen and their vain customs, Jer 10.2-3. These customs are vile and rooted in fertility rites. God warned His people Israel not to defile themselves with the customs of the Canaanites, Lev 18.3, 24-30. It was because of their gross sexual perversions that the Canaanites were exterminated.
We are warned to come out of Babylon. Rev 18.4. Valentine’s Day caters to carnal desires, the works of the flesh as enumerated in Galatians 5.19-21. Read those verses; they clearly describe Lupercalian revelry and debauchery. As Christians called out of this wicked world, we are not to celebrate this pagan festival, even if it is called by the sanitized name of ‘Valentine’s Day’.