I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. I know what you’re probably thinking. “If you had a boyfriend you’d probably feel differently.” Thank you for pointing that out but, no, that’s not why I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. As a Biblical believer, I do not celebrate holidays that have pagan origins. I bet I know what you’re thinking again, besides asking “when did she become a mind-reader”: “But I don’t celebrate it that way so, it’s ok.”
In the spirit of romance, let’s think about it this way. What if your husband had previously dated someone and every year on this former girlfriend’s birthday, he had a celebration? When you ask him about why he celebrates his former girlfriend’s birthday every year, he says, “Well, I am not celebrating her birthday anymore. I redeemed it and now use it to celebrate your birthday!” I don’t know about you, ladies, but this answer would not make me happy. The fact that he still sees this day as any sort of holiday is bad enough but now, add the fact that he has taken my special day and changed it to what is her special day! I would not be thrilled…to say the least. I certainly wouldn’t want to celebrate this so-called holiday. Questions would race through my mind of, “Does he still love her?”
“Does he love her more than he loves me?”
“Does he just see me as a replacement for her?”
“Does he even love me, for me?”
It is the same with God. We all at one time lived apart from God and were joined to other lovers (i.e. the former girlfriend). When we make a commitment to leave our past behind and seek after YHVH with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we must leave behind our past and our former lovers. The same questions we would ask if our husband refused to let go of his former girlfriend are the same questions God asks too. “Do they just see me as a replacement? Do they even love Me, for Me?”
When we just replace the meaning behind the pagan holidays and their rituals, instead of leaving them completely behind, we are doing the same thing as the husband in the analogy. We show YHVH we haven’t left our other gods behind; our former ways are our current ways but in a different form.
While some historians believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the death or burial of St. Valentine (there are several prominent saints with this name so it’s uncertain which Saint Valentine is the real one), others claim that it was an attempt by the Christian church to “Christianize” the pagan ritual of Lupercalia. Lupercalia, celebrated February 15, was a Roman fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
To kick off the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The Luperci priests would then sacrifice a dog as a symbol of purification and a goat as a symbol of fertility. The goat skin was then cut into strips and then dipped in sacrificial blood. The fields and the young women of the area were then “gently slapped” (whatever that means) with the dipped-in-blood goat strips in order to make them more fertile in the coming year.
According to legend, all the young women would then place their names in a giant urn, in which the city’s bachelors would then take turns selecting the name of a maiden to be paired with for the coming year. Often times, not always, however, these matches led to marriage. Because of the promiscuous nature of this pagan festival, it was outlawed at the end of the 5th century by Pope Gelasius, even though it had survived the initial rise of Christianity. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day as an alternative to Lupercalia.
So you see, Valentine’s Day is rooted in pagan tradition. YHVH tells us to be set-apart; a nation of priests. How can we be set-apart if we yoke ourselves to the ways of this world? Why is it so hard for us to let these things go? Yes, I know…they are tradition. And yes, I know…you don’t celebrate with these intentions. But does celebrating these holidays sanctify us? Does it bring glory to YHVH?
Many Christians say that they have somehow redeemed these pagan holidays for God and so it’s ok to celebrate them. The truth is that you as a person or we as the church body have no power to do that. Only God can redeem something. But does He really want to redeem these holidays? No, He doesn’t. He never chose these pagan celebrations for His people. Besides that, you can’t redeem something that was never yours to begin with. To redeem something means to release, liberate, deliver, rescue, save, or restore something. There is an implication that the thing you are trying to redeem once belonged to you but has since been lost. These pagan holidays never belonged to YHVH; they were never meant to be part of His system. In fact, He specifically warns us against the pagan ways of the surrounding nations.
“Guard yourself that you are not ensnared to follow after them [the nations which YHVH cuts off], after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire about their mighty ones, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their mighty ones? And let me do so too.’ Do not do so to YHVH your God, for every abomination which YHVH hates they have done to their mighty ones, for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their mighty ones.” Deuteronomy 12:30-31
YHVH has feasts and celebrations that He has designated as set-apart in order to sanctify us. These are the holidays the people of YHVH should be celebrating, not holidays steeped in pagan and godless tradition. Leviticus 23 outlines the 7 feasts of YHVH as Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Teruach (Day of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Coverings), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). These were the holidays Yeshua would have celebrated. These are the holidays Jesus guarded and treasured with every fiber of His being.
Does it somehow negate what Jesus did on the cross to celebrate the Biblical feasts? Most certainly not. Yeshua Himself said, “And it is easier for the heavens and the earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Torah to fall away.” We, as Christians, believe that God and His Word stand forever; that they are unchanging. This includes His feasts and His warning against pagan celebrations.
If this day is all about showing love to the special people in your life, then let’s make a conscious effort to do that more than just this one day. We don’t need to designate a day to show those we care about that we love them. Maybe this year we need to get better about loving those around us, instead of needing a designated day to remind us. We can also work on showing YHVH that we love Him and His Word. Let’s show Him that we love Him more than our traditions. More than what everyone else is doing. More than our pride. More than ourselves. Let’s make everyday a good day to fulfill the Torah by loving YHVH and loving others!