February 14


Valentine’s Day was once Februa!

Februa, also Februatio, was the Roman festival of ritual purification, later incorporated into Lupercalia. The festival, which is basically one of Spring washing or cleaning (associated also with the raininess of this time of year) is old, and possibly of Sabine origin.

The Roman month Februarius is named for the Februa festival. A later Roman god Februus personified both the month and also purification, and is named for them. Some sources connect the Latin word for fever (febris) with the same idea of purification or purging, due to the sweating commonly seen in association with fevers.

Then, it became Lupercalia!

Plutarch describes Lupercalia: …many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.

The Lupercalia festival was partly in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled the infant orphans, Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, explaining the name of the festival, Lupercalia, or “Wolf Festival.”

By the 5th century, when the public performance of pagan rites had been outlawed, a nominally Christian Roman populace still clung to Lupercalia in the time of Gelasius (494–96). It had been degraded since the 1st century, when in 44 BC the consul Mark Antony did not scruple to run with the Luperci; now the upper classes left the festivities to the rabble. Whatever the fortunes of the rites in the meantime, in the last decade of the 5th century they prompted Pope Gelasius I’s taunt to the senators who were intent on preserving them: “If you assert that this rite has salutary force, celebrate it yourselves in the ancestral fashion; run nude yourselves that you may properly carry out the mockery.” The remark was addressed to the senator Andromachus by Gelasius in an extended literary epistle that was virtually a diatribe against the Lupercalia. Gelasius finally suppressed the Lupercalia after a long dispute.

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine.

The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni. Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome, martyred circa 69 CE buried on the Via Flaminia; Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) circa 197 CE and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine, mentioned in early martyrologies under February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.

In the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”

An ancient holyday invented by rain.

A holyday originally celebrating the need, the need for clean.

A holyday since dedicated to fertility, nudity, and man-suckling wolves.

A holyday not born of fever, rather fever was born of it.

A holyday so awesome, a god was created from it.

A holyday so fabulous, it survived being outlawed.

A holyday so stimulating, it made the Pope dare senators to go naked.

A holyday named after three saints, of which nothing is known.

Truly, this is the Best. Holyday. Ever.

Don’t let Them commercialize the Valenton!