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How Did Valentine's Day Start + Is It a Jewish Holiday?

We’ve all heard of the “Aha!” moment – when you have a realization.

We’re having that, plus an “Ahava” moment about Valentine’s Day, and February in general.

In case you don’t know, “Ahava” means “love” in Hebrew, an idea celebrated in lots of our original jewelry designs.

Judaica-inspired jewelry is, of course, our passion, and we’ve been asking ourselves if Valentine’s Day is really our kind of thing, thinking that February 14 is a Christian holiday.

Our research leads us down a path that really was unknown.  

Saint Valentine Image

Do you know about Lupercalia?

We didn’t either.

And Saint Valentine?

Nope, had no clue who he was.

Let’s begin, shall we?

The original February festival that proceeded Valentine’s Day was the pagan festival of fertility called Lupercalia.

The Church was eager to replace this “festival,” and here’s why:

  • Lupercalia was a fertility festival that honored Lupercus, the protector of sheep and goats from wolves and the female she-wolf, Lupa, took care of orphans.
  • Naked men would run all over the streets snapping these leather strips at random women who waited, hoping to prevent them from being infertile.  
  • Another strange, or rather bizarre act, was a couple chose an orphan to live with them and be (yuck) intimate with them for a year.
  • February was named after the “februa”, or leather strips—and February was the last month of the old Roman year. So, perhaps it was all a party-atmosphere?

You can see now, why the church was eager to replace this festival and make it a day of love?

Remember, this was around the 3rd century in Rome.  

Which leads us to the life of Saint Valentine of Rome, the patron saint of lovers.

He actually wasn’t lucky in love at all and was beheaded.  

You see, Valentine was a temple priest who was trying to convert people to Christianity.

He was sent to Rome under the rule of Emperor Claudius Gothicus, who was said to be a tough and cruel leader.  

So, Valentine, of the Christian faith, sneaks into prisons and secretly marries couples of the Christian faith.

A huge NO NO!

Even more so, he aides Christians that were being persecuted by the Romans.  

These were, of course, serious crimes.  

Then, Valentine even tries to convince Claudius of converting to Christianity, where he was commanded to renounce his faith or be beheaded.

Guess what happened-- Yep, he refused to renounce his faith and was executed February 14, 269.  

Another variation of the story of his life also tells of the time he healed the jailer’s blind daughter.  

The day he was to be executed, he left her a note and signed it, “your Valentine.”

And from that historic day forward, February 14th became the day of the Saint of lovers.

How did we get from this scene described above to lacy love-letters, romantic roses, and heart-shaped boxes chocolates?

love jewelry

Speaking as a nice Jewish girl, with almost six thousand years of monotheism behind me, I’m really not sure.

But we do know that monks spread the idea of St. Valentine’s Day to England and France.  But, the poet Goeffrey Chaucer, is really the stronghold behind the courtly romance of the day.  

You do remember that Shakespeare wrote about the link between love and Valentine’s Day in “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” don’t you? (I had no clue, but go along with it)

And so, in the 19th century exchanging love notes, cards and candy-- aka “valentines” started to spread throughout Europe and America.  

And it hasn’t stopped since.

So, basically the original St. Valentine martyred himself for the Christian faith on February 14th for his religion and as a result, we now have Valentine’s Day as we know it today.

From the strangeness of leather whips in February to a Saint Valentine, we now have adorable cupids, cards and chocolate candies...oh, and jewelry!  

Can’t forget jewelry.

Meanwhile, let’s just stick with the idea of human AHAVA.

No ritual whippings with pieces of goat-leather, and no mama wolves, please.

How about a nice little necklace—a current favorite is our square gold heart pendant, a modern look with a window looking to your soul on a solid gold chain. The slightly organic shape of this piece gives this necklace a really sensuous, handmade, artistic feel.

gold heart necklace

The words from the Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim, Chapter 6, verse 3a) written by King Solomon is a poem of love.  The Hebrew translates into English, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” This is a very popular phrase and a dedication of love between two people.  It can often be heard recited as wedding vows, seen written on a ketubah, and found on jewelry such as this sterling silver pendant in Hebrew script.

hebrew love necklace

 

So, yea-- Valentine’s Day is our thing.  

We hope it’s yours too.  

And you know what, choose whatever says “I love you.”

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Let us know your thoughts about Valentine's Day!!

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1 comment

  • Hi – I don’t remember them teaching that at Beckford!

    Nancy Perren (Gina's grandma)

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