What do big red hearts filled with chocolate, pink teddy bears, flower boutiques, and glitter cards with phrases like, “I love you to the moon and back!” all have in common? They all come to stores a few weeks before February 14th: Valentine’s Day.
Should Christians celebrate Valentine’s Day? Christians can celebrate Valentine’s Day if they want to. There is nothing wrong with sending a friend or your significant other a card and a box of candy on February 14th. One of the only reasons some Christians don’t celebrate it is because of the pagan festival of Lupercalia. Some people believe Valentine’s Day was placed around the time of Lupercalia to “Christianize” the time around the festival, but, there is little evidence to support that claim.
I personally know Christians who celebrate Valentine’s Day and others who don’t celebrate it because of how commercialized the holiday has become. I began to research Valentine’s Day to see if Christians should celebrate it or not. To start, let’s look at the origins of Valentine’s Day.
Origins of Valentine’s Day
There are many mysteries surrounding the origins of Valentine’s Day. People debate when exactly it started and who it began with. The most common origin story is the legend of St. Valentine.
St. Valentine is believed to have been a priest during the third century in Rome. After Emperor Claudius II declared single men made better soldiers, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine went behind Emperor Claudius’ law and performed marriages in secret. When this was discovered, Claudius had him put to death.
Other stories suggested that Valentine helped Christians to escape Roman prisons. In this story, Valentine was imprisoned when he sent the very first valentine’s letter to a young lady. It is believed he sent it to his jailor’s daughter. Before his death, it is believed he wrote her another letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
By the time the middle ages came around, St. Valentine had become a popular saint. Although we do not know if these stories are true, St. Valentine is still viewed as a romantic saint who helped to start Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day: Through the Decades
In the 19th century, Valentine’s cards became popular. It started off with handwritten cards and then mass-produced cards became popular. They began making the cards in factories due to the high demand. The cards were made with lace and ribbon.
The first box of chocolates was made in 1868 by a company called Cadbury. The boxes were called “Fancy Boxes.” Halfway through the 20th century, exchanging cards along with gifts, like chocolate, became normal.
Poems have also been apart of Valentine’s Day since the beginning. People used to submit poems they wrote for their significant other to the local newspaper in hopes it would be published. Newspapers would have whole sections dedicated to poems and short love notes for significant others for Valentine’s Day. People would search through Valentine’s Day cards to find one with the right poem inside of it. Here is one Valentine’s Day poem that was included in the Springfield Republican by Elizabeth Barrett:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and hight my sould can reach, when deeling out of sight for the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need by sum and candlelight. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with thepassion put to use in my old griefs, with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemes to lose with my lost saints – I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after Death. Mrs. Browining.-Elizabeth Barrett, 16 July 1874, page 3 Springfield Republican
Valentine’s Day: Today
Today, Valentine’s Day is on February 14th. It’s a celebration of love which stemmed from St. Valentine. People express their love to their significant other, friends, and family by purchasing candy, stuffed animals, or chocolate-covered strawberries with Valentine’s Day card attached to it.
Here are 5 facts about Valentine’s Day:
- 144 million greeting cards are sent every year
- Americans spent $20.7 billion dollars in 2019 on Valentine’s Day
- 3 in 10 people don’t celebrate this holiday in America
- $2.1 billion dollars was spent on “Galentine’s Day” in 2010
- 3% of pet owners give gifts to their animals on Valentine’s Day
Couples typically go out on Feb. 14th to dinner together and maybe a movie afterward. The average person spends $152 dollars on Valentine’s Day. Now that you know the history of Valentine’s Day and how people celebrate it today, the question is can Christians celebrate it? First, let’s look at the reasons why Christians can celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Why Some Christians Do Celebrate It
As Christians, we are called to love another. Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Christians can use Valentine’s Day to show their love for one another.
I have a family member who has a card making party before Valentine’s Day every year. She encourages us to think of people who wouldn’t normally receive Valentine’s and make them a homemade card. She sends Valentine’s cards to people who have recently had a loss in their family or people who don’t have anyone to celebrate with. She uses Valentine’s Day to remind people in her life that they are loved.
Christians are free to celebrate Valentine’s Day if they choose to. There is nothing wrong with sending someone a card and giving them flowers or chocolate to show your love and appreciation for them!
Why Some Christians Don’t Celebrate It
There are two main reasons people don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day: because it’s too commercialized and others say it has pagan roots.
First, Valentine’s Day has become a commercialized holiday. It was estimated people in America spent $20.7 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2019. The truth is, most holidays in America have become commercialized. Take for example Christmas.
For many people, Christmas is a time to give gifts and watch movies about Santa. Many people don’t focus on Jesus and His birth at all during Christmas. Does this mean Christians shouldn’t give Christmas gifts? Giving gifts is not bad. The problem occurs when people focus more on gifts than Jesus’ birth. Christians can give gifts at Christmas time so long as Jesus remains the center of the day.
I use the example of Christmas to show that just because a holiday has become commercialized does not mean people should stop celebrating that holiday. This is not to say Christians have to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although it has become a commercialized holiday, that does not mean it is wrong to celebrate it as a Christian.
Next, some people believe Valentine’s Day has pagan roots. While the exact origin of Valentine’s Day remains unclear, some people believe it began with Saint Valentine whereas others believe it started because of the ancient pagan celebration of Lupercalia.
Celebration of Lupercalia
Lupercalia is a yearly pagan celebration that took place on February 15th. This celebration involved ritual animal sacrifice and many other scandalous practices. The purpose of Lupercalia was for women to have a year of fertility.
Some people believe Christians placed Valentine’s Day around the time of Lupercalia to “Christianize” February. I did not find any historical evidence to back this claim up. Most people believe February 14th was the day Saint Valentine was martyred, therefore, why we celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th.
Through my research, I found it is fine for Christians to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This does not mean Christians have to celebrate it, but there is nothing wrong with celebrating it. If you are wary about celebrating it because of the celebration of Lupercalia, you can choose to not celebrate. It’s a personal decision as to if you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not.