SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Valentine’s Day, every February 14th, involves hugs and kisses, the sending of millions of romantic greeting cards, the giving of roses and other flowers, and the mass consumption of chocolates and additional candies. What is the history of this holiday? Should Christians get involved with it?
ORIGIN OF VALENTINE’S DAY
Who exactly was “Saint Valentine” anyway? Honestly, we really have no idea. Historians disagree as to who he was—if he existed at all. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church honors not one but three martyrs named “Valentine” (or “Valentinus” in Latin). Since that name was highly popular millennia ago, it is difficult to pinpoint who this holiday was named after (assuming he was one of those three, ignoring the innumerable others sharing that name).
One “Valentine” was a priest who allegedly performed illegal marriages in the Roman Empire a few centuries after Christ. Another story involves an imprisoned “Valentine” (same or different?) writing to a woman who had gained his affection. He supposedly signed his letter, “From your Valentine.” Whoever he was, Valentine may have died in mid-February, leading to the familiar celebration of love. The holiday became especially romanticized during the Renaissance several centuries ago. Considering the diverging accounts, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. It could have been a combination of stories of numerous other men thus named.
Due to the mysterious and ancient history involved, it is challenging to establish exactly how the name and time of Valentine’s Day originated. Suffice it to say that it is most definitely attached to heathen Roman religion. For example, Cupid—a baby or young boy holding a bow and shooting heart-shaped arrows—is the prominent icon of Valentine’s Day. This “adorable” little figure is actually the ancient Roman god of desire, affection, and erotic love. There is certainly nothing “Christian” about him!
Interestingly, another pagan deity is also connected to Valentine’s Day. Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, was honored on the fertility festival of Lupercalia—February 15th. Here, we can see a clear link to love and couples, and how the date was probably fixed.
According to History.com,
“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.”
“Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity… but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”—at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.”
This brief background gives us some idea—albeit murky—as to how February 14th became associated with celebrating love and affection. There is certainly nothing Christian about the holiday as far as the record of Scripture is concerned. Moreover, there is also pervasive superstition to be avoided (a “healing” miracle Valentine allegedly performed, people making modern-day pilgrimages to view his supposed remains as “relics,” and so on). It is a most precarious issue.
WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?
Our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Valentine’s Day so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding February 14th, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13).
The Bible says, without doubt, that husbands are to love their wives. Wives should reverence or respect their husbands. This should be true year-round, not just once a year. Ephesians chapter 5: “ Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
“ For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”
If you and your romantic interest (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, fiancé/fiancée) want to spend February 14th exchanging flowers or sweets, or enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant, that is your business. This author will certainly not legislate your life for you. He is more than eager to use the Scriptures (and outside sources, if necessary) to point you in the right direction, but it is ultimately your decision.
In addition, he would like to take this opportunity to strictly caution you to guard against the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. People spend their money carelessly at this time of year. They believe they must purchase expensive, flattering gifts to please others or express “true” love. The greeting-card industry is out to make a profit—just like every other business (florists, candy makers, jewelers, and so on). The attitudes underlying the actions, not the amount or value of material gifts, are what matter the most. If it is Christ in you loving your significant other, then that carries far more weight than all the world’s silver, gold, precious jewels, flowers, and candy!
A WORD OF EXHORTATION TO THE LONELY, FORGOTTEN, AND BEREAVED
Valentine’s Day can be quite lonely for single people. Those who have just experienced, or are experiencing, divorce find this time of year quite painful. The same could be said of widows, those betrayed by unfaithful partners, those unable to find lasting romance, and so on. It is also true of those who cannot afford or do not receive a dozen of roses, a box of chocolates, a fine meal at a restaurant, costly jewelry, and so on. Some women are married to men who have never given them, and will never give them, any gifts. Similarly, some husbands never receive special treatment from their wives. This is all quite unfortunate—and undoubtedly all results of sin.
The word “love” is used so flippantly today in this shallow-minded world. Love and sex are often confused. There is no selflessness, or self-sacrificial love. Fuzzy warm feelings and uncontrollable emotions are surely present, but is there true love, the mental attitude of seeking someone else’s highest good (charity, love in action)? Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.” People just want to get any pleasure or gratification from others, even to the detriment of those others. Luxurious gifts and over-complimenting can be used to manipulate to achieve one’s desires. Marriages often end in divorce. Romantic relationships wane and dissolve. There is no guarantee people who have such relationships are even happy. It is easier to be single and desire marriage, than be married and desire singleness! Friend, you would do well to think on that long and hard.
Above all, the Bible says that Almighty God loves us—even if no one else does. We must never confuse His infinite love for us with our weak, fickle love for Him. Human love, no matter how deep or long-lasting, will never, ever replace God’s love! His love is unconditional, not tied to our circumstances. We look to Calvary’s cross, Christ’s finished crosswork, to see God’s love on clear display. His only begotten Son offering His life at Calvary so He could then offer us eternal life, that is the greatest gift. It is worth far more than flowers, rings, kisses, and candy. His inspired Word written to us and preserved in English in the King James Bible is worth far more than any greeting card or manmade note of affection. It will outlast all other documents!
Romans chapter 5: “ For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” First Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:….”