Thursday, January 24, 2013

Should My Kids Participate In Valentine's Day?

This morning I received an e-mail from one of our homeschool co-op organizers notifying us of the upcoming Valentines Cards exchange for the kids of the co-op, as well as the upcoming Valentine's Day Party.

My first response was, "Oh cute!  The kids are going to make cards for each other."  And who can say no to a party?  It sounds like fun!

Then I felt something in my heart give a little tug.  Isn't Valentine's Day all about romance and love?  Why do little children get involved in it?   Maybe I need to investigate a little further.

Centuries before Christ, as early as 753 B.C., the Romans held an annual 3-day fertility festival on February 13-15, called the Festival of Lupercalia.  During this festival 2 goats and a dog were sacrificed, then skinned.   The priests, or Luperci, would then take the animal skins, dress themselves in it after cutting long thongs from the skins.  They would run around the walls of the old Palantine city nude, only covered in the skins, and with the thongs in their hands.  People who crowded near would be struck with the thongs, especially girls and young women.  Married women were also encouraged to bare their bodies and be flogged. The belief was that this practice would ensure fertility, prevent sterility in women, and ease the pain of childbirth.  The festival was also accompanied with much revelry and drinking.

It is interesting to note that the famous Roman polititian, Mark Anthony (83 B.C. to 30 B.C ), also performed as a Luperci at least once.

Another unique custom of the Feast of Lupercalia was the tradition of matchmaking through the pairing of young boys and girls.  Young, marriageable girls would place a chit of their name in a big urn.  Each young boy drew a name and was then paired with that girl for the rest of the year.

Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in 313 A.D. thereby ending Rome's persecution of Christians.   In 380 A.D. Christianity was made the official state religion of the Roman Empire.  However, this did not end the practice of pagan rituals and festivals.  The pagans who adopted Christianity as their religion did not abandon their traditions and religious practices, mostly because this festival was the longest-lasting and one of the most important and popular Roman pagan festivals.

Although the ritual had become an important part of the civic life of Rome in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I presented a lengthy document opposing the festival.  In 494 A.D. he successfully outlawed the pagan festival, but since so many people still clung to the Lupercalia, he shifted the focus of the festival by refashioning it as the "Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary". Two years later the feast day of St. Valentine was added to the calendar.   It is unclear, and the topic of much debate, what the Pope's motives were for creating the new saint's day, but it is easy to draw the conclusion that it was to adapt the enthusiasm for Lupercalia to a more sociable acceptable form of celebration.

Although the Festival of Lupercalia essentially ended in the West during this time, it continued in the East for another few centuries. 

Valentine's Day did not start out being a day of romance, but rather a day to commemorate the selfless service and ministry of the priest and physician, Valentinus, who was known for doing good deeds, caring for the poor, and healing the sick.  The Normans celebrated Galatin's Day around the same time.  Galtin meant "lover of women" and was likely confused with St. Valentine's Day at some point.  As the years went by, the holiday grew sweeter, especially during the Middle Ages with the notion that birds pair off to mate on February 14.  Shakespeare also romanticized the day in his work which further contributed to the romantic connotation.

The fact remains that Valentine's Day is not a religious holiday and never really has been either.  Although the Greco-Roman pagan historical roots are alarming to me, and it is clear that there is a correlation between the Festival of Lupercalia and the Valentine's Day society celebrates today, I can attempt to put this aside and only evaluate the merits of the Day as it is celebrated today.  However, if I do so, I am still concerned.   

The primary custom associated with St. Valentine's Day is the mutual exchange of love notes called 'valentines', accompanied with hearts, the colors of red and pink, and winged cupids.   

I would find it hypocritical of me to encourage my children to participate in the exchange of "I love you's" in a overwhelming atmosphere of "romantic love", when I intend to also advise my children to seek friendships rather than "dating" until they are truly prepared to pursue marriage.  Why start dating when you're not prepared to follow through and pursue marriage.  That would be looking for trouble in my opinion. 

Sometimes it is difficult to oppose the world view, and not go along with the main stream, especially with the heavily commercialized Valentine's Day celebrations today.  The easy way out would be to look at the sugar-coating and "cutesy", seemingly innocent, components of Valentine's Day, but the Bible encourages us to have discernment, and to not be unevenly yoked with the world.  It further admonishes us to be IN the world but not OF it.

We should not compromise.  Compromise started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve compromised the one law God gave them, and they paid a heavy price for it.  Daniel refused to compromise his convictions and did not bow down to worship a king.  If this happened today, how many people would argue, "It's harmless!  Bowing down does not reflect what's in my heart!"  But how do you think God would have viewed it if Daniel held that attitude?  

This makes me wonder what price we pay as Christians for the compromises we have made by accepting a world view and pagan practices into our lives?  

You can sugar-coat a pagan ritual as much as you like, the demonic root cannot be removed.

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?
And what communion has light with darkness?" 
(2 Corinthians 6:14)

No comments:

Post a Comment