Valentine's Day is all about showing "love," giving a card or flowers or chocolates to a loved one. All of that's good, right? Wrong.
Valentine's Day is big business. According to the National Retail Foundation, Valentine's Day for 2012 added around $17.6 billion to the U.S. economy—making retail spending for this day the second-largest behind Christmas.
For a lot of people it's the holiday to express your love to someone special. According to Kemberly King, a business instructor at South University, young adults ages 25-34 spend the most on Valentine's Day gifts. Interestingly, men will outspend women—almost 2 to 1—with the biggest categories for all spending being restaurants, candy, romantic getaways and flowers.
A quick Web search for the origins of Valentine's Day will give you the basics of the accepted history of the day. A deeper search will acknowledge its pagan origins. The Good News magazine (sister publication of Vertical Thought) has published a variety of articles on both of these aspects of Valentine's Day. While Valentine's Day is the most promoted holiday after Christmas and Easter even among traditional Christian churches, it is definitely not a holiday with true Christian values.
How can "love" be wrong?
There's nothing wrong in showing love to others—after all, isn't that the most valued Christian characteristic? But what's been lost in how we go about it, and how we worship God for that matter, is whether we are actually following what God teaches in the Bible. It's like an automobile manufacturer tells you to put only gasoline in the fuel tank, but then you decide that diesel fuel is just as good! It just won't work.
Here's a quick review of the background of Valentine's Day—before exploring a deeper point about this holiday.
By most accepted historians, Valentine's Day was an adaptation by the Catholic Church of the ancient pagan Roman celebration of Lupercalia, a fertility festival. The Catholic Church updated and connected it to a "Saint" Valentine sometime late in the third century A.D. (though there is some confusion as to who this person actually was). It really took off commercially as a holiday in the late 1800s, promoted as a day to show your "love" to others—especially romantic love to your special someone.
So what's wrong with that? Here's the problem: Lupercalia was an immoral fertility festival also featuring gluttony and drunkenness. At the end of the festivities young men would draw the name of a young lady from a box and the two were considered a pair (sexually and otherwise) for the coming year.
As a festival Lupercalia was dedicated to the Roman god Pan, recognized as the god of fields, groves and wooded glens—and pictured as having the hindquarters, legs and horns of a goat. This pagan deity was connected to fertility and the season of spring. None of what is connected to the feast of Lupercalia is worthy of a Christian's observance.
But what's wrong with a little paganism?
What about showing love on Valentine's Day if I'm not doing it for pagan reasons? Isn't that okay? No, because the expression of that kind of "love" is still rooted in a former pagan holiday. True Christians must not adopt pagan festivals as holidays, for they are to strive to please God in everything they do.
Even when you think you're innocently observing a holiday like this, you're still advancing the origins and meanings of the day—especially from His perspective, as He certainly knows where it came from. God said not to do this. He told the Israelites entering the pagan land of Canaan:
"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" (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, emphasis added).
When we merge pagan teachings with what God instructs through the Bible, we weaken the truth and violate God's clear command.
God's way is true love
Showing love as God instructs is not wrong—romantic love included. It's a good thing to express your love toward others through a card, flowers, dinner out or any number of other ways. But don't do it under the trappings of a pagan holiday like Valentine's Day! If someone is special to you, then do those things throughout the year rather than waiting until February 14th.
Our worship of God must first and foremost be according to His truth (John 4:24). Carryovers from pagan worship don't honor Him!
God is personified by the characteristic of love (1 John 4:8). Godly love is genuine outgoing concern for others as God would love them—not as a selfish love. Divine love is reflected in keeping God's commandments (1 John 5:3), including the Ten Commandments and instruction like that in Deuteronomy cited above. True Christians desire to faithfully observe God's own Holy Days (see Leviticus 23 for a list of them). Celebrating holidays like Valentine's Day in opposition to God's instruction does not honor or obey Him—no matter how well intentioned or innocent we believe it to be.
It does matter to God how we worship Him. He expects us to understand the difference between what He has declared holy and the profane teachings, customs and traditions masquerading as godly worship (Ezekiel 22:6).
For a more complete review of comparing traditional religious holidays to God's Holy Days, we recommend that you read our Bible study aid Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?