Happy Valentine’s Day–February 14, 2020
Food for thought: “Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.” (history.com, 2nd ¶)
By Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC
Similar to Christmas, the origin of Valentine’s Day is rooted in both Christian beliefs and pagan practices. The Christian element of Valentine’s Day stems back to the Roman Priest St. Valentine. Valentine lived during the reign of Emperor Claudias II who forbid young persons to marry. Defying Claudias’ prohibition against young people marrying, Valentine encouraged and secretly performed Christian marriages, which he considered sacred between a man and one woman for life. Valentine’s activity was discovered, and he became a Christian martyr having been imprisoned and executed for his biblical beliefs in marriage that opposed Claudias’ mandate not to marry. According to literature reported at Wikipedia, St. Valentine was buried February 14.
Two pagan aspects of Valentine’s Day that come to mind include the date designated to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the concept of Cupid. A number of sources report that rather than selecting the date February 14 to honor St. Valentine’s memory, that the date of the holiday was an offshoot of the pagan fertility celebration Lupercalia celebrated Februrary 15 of each year on the Roman calendar. According to History.com Staff (2009), Lupercalia, considered unchristian, was outlawed at the end of the fifth century by Pope Gelasius when he pronounced February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day in honor of St. Valentine.
Cupid, a symbol of Valentine’s Day, is a figure of pagan mythology. “In classical mythology, Cupid (Latin Cupīdō [kʊˈpiː.doː], meaning “desire”) is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. He is often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus and the war god Mars. He is also known in Latin as Amor (“Love”). His Greek counterpart is Eros.” (Wikipedia, 2017) In Classical Greek art, Eros is typically depicted as a slim winged youth. However, later in the Hellenistic period, Cupid’s image became that of a chubby boy. Additionally, images of Cupid began including a bow and arrow representing a source of power. Reportedly, whoever is shot with Cupid’s arrow becomes full of uncontrollable desire. As an idol of Valentine’s Day, Cupid is depicted drawing a bow intended to inspire romance.
According to The Bible Study Site, the roots and symbols of Valentine’s Day stem from worship practices of pagan gods and have no Biblical basis. Authors at The Bible Study Site challenge Christians who celebrate Valentine’s Day to reconsider what they are doing through prayer. In the next few paragraphs we’ll explore in depth the morality question of celebrating Valentine’s Day.
Is acknowledging and celebrating Valentine’s Day wrong? If one considers the purpose of Valentine’s Day as intended by Pope Gelasius as a means of honoring St. Valentine and Christian marriage/love, then I think not. After all, “God is love.” (I John 4:8)
Other commonly known symbols of Valentine’s Day are the colors white, red, and pink; flowers; hearts; lovebirds; and Valentine cards, or love notes. According to Celebrating Holidays (2018), although many Valentine symbols have roots to paganism, many of these symbols “are full of biblical meaning and Christian history.” (¶ 1) How so? Let’s take a closer look:
*Colors white, red, and pink–In Christianity, the color white has always been associated with purity, based on Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV):
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
Regarding the color red,
May the color red of Valentine’s Day remind us of the blood of Christ that was willingly spilled to demonstrate God’s passionate love for us. Let us also remember the man who proved his love to the one who first loved him. St. Valentine lost his life because he would not deny the one that he loved — Christ! (Celebrating Holidays, 2018c , The Color Red section, ¶ 6)
Pink is the result of mixing red and white. “May it serve as a reminder of how the significant meaning of the colors red and white work together to tell the complete love story between Christ and his church.” (Celebrating Holidays, 2018c , The Color Pink section, ¶ 1)
*Flowers–Many cultures place meaning to flowers. In today’s culture the giving of red roses, commonly done on Valentine’s Day, says “I love you.”
Jesus taught that the first and greatest command is to “love the Lord your God with all your HEART and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)… Interestingly, the Sacred Heart (the heart of Jesus) has been a symbol for hundreds of years for the ultimate love. The love of Jesus that was willing to sacrifice Himself for His people, because “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). (Celebrating Holidays, 2018a , ¶ 3-4)
Birds can also be a reminder for the Christian of God’s intimate love. When tempted to worry about God’s provision for our romantic lives, or any of our needs for that matter, let us “look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26-27). (Celebrating Holidays, 2018b , ¶ 6)
*Valentine cards, or love notes–According to legend, St. Valentine himself is said to have written the first Valentine, or love note to a young woman who had visited him while in prison. He ended the letter, “From Your Valentine”.
As a Christian, the cross is a significant symbol of my faith. However, did you know the cross also has pagan roots? According to The Cor Project (2015),
Did you know that in the pre-Christian, pagan mind, the cross was actually a symbol of sexual union? As John Denham Parsons writes in his book The Non-Christian Cross, long before Christ, many pagan cultures recognized two lines crossing as “a symbol of life … because the figure of the cross is the simplest possible representation of that union of two bodies or two sexes … which alone produces life.” (¶ 2)
Now I ask what does the cross symbolize? Is it a symbol of sexual union or of Christ’s crucifixion on the Cross? The answer, logically, would be “that depends” on what meaning a person attaches to the cross. Make sense?
a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized, as being part of that which is symbolized, and as performing its normal function of standing for or representing that which is symbolized: usually conceived as deriving its meaning chiefly from the structure in which it appears [emphasis added], and generally distinguished from a sign.
Now to answer the question, should Christians celebrate Valentine’s Day? My answer would be that depends on the meaning and significance in an individual’s mind and heart that he or she places on the holiday and its associated symbols. I believe that would be the biblical answer. After all, “…the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Celebrating Holidays (2018a). Hearts (A symbol of Valentine’s Day). Retrieved January 25, 2018 from http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=2472
Celebrating Holidays (2018b). Lovebirds (A symbol of Valentine’s Day). Retrieved January 25, 2018 from
Celebrating Holidays (2018c). Valentine’s Day colors. Retrieved January 25, 2018 from http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=2453
Celebrating Holidays (2018d). Valentine’s Day symbols. Retrieved January 25, 2018 from http://www.celebratingholidays.com/?page_id=2445
The Cor Project (2015). The pagan cross was a sex symbol. Retrieved January 25, 2018 from http://corproject.com/32-the-pagan-cross-was-a-sex-symbol/
History.com Staff (2009). History of Valentine’s Day. Retrieved January 25, 2018 from http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day