Each year millions of people observe Valentine’s Day. By sending cards and giving flowers, candy and other gifts, many consider the holiday as an opportunity to show affection to their special sweethearts.
Of course buying presents and doing nice things for one’s true love is admirable. But should you and I participate in Valentine’s Day as a means of showing fondness and esteem? More importantly, is this something our Creator God endorses and honors?
When it comes to showing appreciation and affection to a sweetheart, a God-centered person doesn’t need a pagan-originated holiday to motivate him.
The foundation of Valentine’s Day goes back nearly 2,400 years to the 4th century B.C. Among various customs of the time, youthful Romans engaged in the annual fertility rite of Lupercalia in honor of the pagan god Lupercus. During this practice it was customary for the names of adolescent girls to be written on pieces of paper and placed in a box. Then teenage boys each drew out a girl’s name. Afterwards the girls were consigned to the boys for their mutual sexual gratification.
Replacing a pagan deity with a “lovers saint”
The Roman Catholic Church sought to end this fertility rite in the late 4th century A.D. by replacing the deity Lupercus with a “lovers saint.” They found the ideal candidate in Valentine, a bishop who had been martyred 200 years earlier. As a result, in A.D. 496 Pope Gelasius I changed the February 14th celebration to honor St. Valentine.
Interestingly, the Church maintained the festival’s name-drawing feature. However, rather than having boys choose the names of available girls, now each boy and girl selected the name of a “saint.” The purpose of this activity was to encourage young people to emulate the life of their chosen saint throughout the year. Nevertheless, because the former pagan festival had been so popular, that custom was short-lived. Soon young men began sending cards to young women they wanted to court. These became known as Valentine’s Day cards.
When the Roman Catholic Church instituted the change from Lupercalia to St. Valentine’s Day, its objective was to transform a former, popular pagan fertility rite into a “Christian holiday.” By instituting this and other such practices, pagans were influenced to embrace the church while still continuing in “Christianized” pagan traditions.
Practices rooted in immoral conduct
Considering the origins of this popular lover’s holiday, let’s go back to my original question. Does it make any difference whether you and I participate in Valentine’s Day? Well, it doesn’t really matter if God doesn’t exist. But God does exist, and He censures customs and practices rooted in false worship and immoral conduct (Ephesians 4:22 Ephesians 4:22That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
American King James Version×, 1 Peter 1:15 1 Peter 1:15But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation;
American King James Version×, 2 Peter 3:11 2 Peter 3:11Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
American King James Version×). Also, putting a new face on an old, ungodly observance is as wrong as the original evil. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20 Isaiah 5:20Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
American King James Version×).
God says to those who diligently want to follow Him, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32 Deuteronomy 12:32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×). Also, the apostle Paul wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 2:12 Romans 2:12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
American King James Version×). God’s Word is clear to those who have “ears to hear” (Mark 4:9 Mark 4:9And he said to them, He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
American King James Version×).
Avoiding wrong customs and observances
When it comes to showing appreciation and affection to a sweetheart, a God-centered person doesn’t need a pagan-originated holiday to motivate him. We should all be careful to follow God’s desires by diligently keeping His commandments and carefully avoiding customs and observances He does not sanction.
There is much more to the story of Valentine’s Day, as well as vital information on the true annual Holy Days which God has instituted for all humanity.