Hearts and flowers, cupids and candy—today's symbols of Valentine's Day are well removed from the circumstances which instituted this yearly display of affection.
In this installment of Teen Bible Study Guide, we’ll discuss the origins of Valentine’s Day and examine what God says about it.
Established as a religious holiday, the Feast of St. Valentine honored the Roman priest who lost his life during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II. According to various historical accounts, Valentine, a priest in Rome, was persecuted for his beliefs and executed on Feb. 14. Approximately 270 A.D. Valentine became a symbol of love and compassion. Several hundreds of years later when the Roman Catholic Church gained a stronger foothold in Europe and set about substituting pagan rituals with more "Christian" sounding names, Valentine was officially recognized.
In ancient Rome this pagan feast day was known as Lupercalia, the "feast of Lupercus." Mid February was traditionally the time of the festival, an ode to the God of fertility and a celebration of sensual pleasure, a time to meet and court a prospective mate.
Lupercus was the Roman god that protected them from wolves, which were a great danger in that area. So, each year in the middle of February the Romans honored the god Lupercus, giving him thanks for protecting them. The people feasted, danced and played games. When the young men wanted partners for the dancing and games, they drew names of girls from a bowl. Sometimes they became sweethearts, too. This went on for hundreds of years.
As more and more people throughout the Western Roman Empire converted to an increasingly popular "Christianity," they brought many of their favorite customs with them, including this "feast of Lupercus". In AD 496, Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival. But he wanted to replace it with a similar celebration. He needed a "lovers" saint to replace the pagan deity Lupercus. The martyred bishop Valentine was chosen as the patron saint of the new festival.
Thus, "the church endeavored to amalgamate (mix), as it were, the old and new religions, and sought, by transferring the heathen ceremonies to the solemnities (observances) of the Christian festivals, to make them subservient (subordinate) to the cause of religion and piety… The result has been the strange medley (mingling) of Christian and pagan rites…" (Chambers’ Book of Days, Vol. 2).
And that’s how the feast of Lupercalia was replaced with the feast of St. Valentine.
Still others claim that sending greetings to loved ones on Feb. 14 dates to the middle ages when it was believed that this day marked the beginning of the mating season for birds.
1. What was the motivation to rename Lupercalia? How successful (on a scale of 1 to 10) do you think the strategy was?
2. But, despite it’s obvious pagan roots, is it still all right to keep it?
What does God say?
DEUTERONOMY 12:29-32 " When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it."
1. Why does God not want us to look at other nations and other ways of worship and adopt those for our worship of Him?
2. Why do you think we should be careful in our worship of God?
3. What did Christ say about it?
Mark 7:6-7 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "
4. How do these words of Jesus apply to the celebration of Valentine's Day?
5. Did Christ uphold God’s commandments? Read John 15:10 and 14:15 and then answer.
COMMENT: Jesus is our example so we should follow His conduct (I Cor. 11:1).
1. With what is Valentine's Day associated today? Do any religious ideas come to mind? If so, which ones?
2. What are the origins of Valentines’ Day? Why is it important to know the origin of Valentine's Day?
3. What does God say about how we worship Him?
4. Why is it important to keep God’s commandments?
5. What other days are celebrated in today’s culture that don’t come from the Bible?