What is the origin of St. Valentine’s Day? PDF Print E-mail


DSC05197The derivation of this day is connected to several ancient festival celebrations of love and fertility.


Celebrations of the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera, the divine couple in Greek mythology, was held from mid January to mid February in ancient Athens.  Meanwhile, the Roman festival Lupercalia began at the ides of February.  14 (or, debatably, 15) February was also the day for worshipping Godess Juno, the partner of Jupiter and Queen of the Roman pantheon.  Among these celebrations, Lupercalia is more often connected to the origin of St. Valentine’s Day.


In ancient Rome, people observed Lupercalia, a possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, on 13, 14 and 15 February, to obtain purification and fertility.  Lupercalia was dedicated to Lupercus, the god of shepherds, who sometimes identified with Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and had an equivalent Greek god Pan.  In the celebration on 15 Feburary, naked young men would run around the Palatine while brandishing goatskin whips in their hands. The gentle blows on women’s back were believed to bring them fertility.  Afterwards, all the young women in the city would put their names in a big urn, and then young men would each draw a name from the urn to find out their partners for that year.  Some believe that Lupercalia was also dedicated to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.