How Lupercalia Became Valentine’s Day

The origin of Valentine’s Days comes to us from the ancient Roman festival, Lupercalia. The article below was originally published in 1911 and tells us how the festival of love was Christianized.

Ancient Roman Customs

It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honor of Pan and Juno, whence the latter deity was named Februta, Februalis and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed.

The pastors of the early Christian church, who by every possible means endeavored to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstition and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted in the present instance the names of particular saints instead of those of the women; and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine’s day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time.

This is in part the opinion of a learned and rational compiler of the ‘Live of the Saints,’ the Rev. Alban Butler. It should seem, however, that it was utterly impossible to extirpate altogether any ceremony to which the common people had been much accustomed, and accordingly the outline of the ancient ceremonies was preserved, but modified by some adaption to the Christian system. It is reasonable to suppose that the above practice of choosing mates would be called Valentines from the day.

Source: The Washington herald. (Washington, D.C.), 12 Feb. 1911.

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