As with many modern holidays, it is widely theorized by scholars that the true origins of Valentine’s Day is actually steeped in a very ancient Roman pastoral fertility festival, observed on February 13 through 15. The festival was called Lupercalia.
The belief was that the goddess Juno Februata (where the name February comes from) inflicted her "love fever" on the youth. Lupercalia “festivities” involved an orgy and sexual excesses, the sacrifice of goats and dogs, and the burning of salt meal-cakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins. Young men would randomly pick love notes of eligible young women from a container, after which they would try to guess who wrote the notes. Another practice was to smear the foreheads of youths with the blood of a sacrificed dog and goat and send them off with a priest around the perimeter of the city, whipping women along the way with strips of the goat’s skin. This act was to protect the women from infertility.
For years the Christian church tried to suppress the festival of Lupercalia. Pope Gelasius changed Lupercalia from the 15th to the 14th and renamed it after the legendary St. Valentine in an attempt to redefine the pagan celebration. Even after the church replaced Lupercus with St. Valentine, the Lupercalia festival continued relatively unchanged except for the sexual excesses.
Though much has changed since the days of Lupercalia, in elementary schools across the country, children still put concealed notes in a box much as the ancient Romans did. Some traditions are well worth keeping!
*Originally posted on Blogger. For more 2013-2015 blog archives, click here.