What we call Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for centuries in many cultures under many names.
Early Roman rituals worshiped Lupercus, the Roman god of fertility, who blessed the young men’s rites of passage. Often when Roman armies occupied conquered countries they introduced the festival of Lupercalia in which boys drew names of girls out of an urn to determine their partners for the day or even longer.
Pope Gelasius decided to replace the pagan ritual of Lupercalia with the celebration of St. Valentine because a man and a woman living in intimacy was thought to be too immoral. As the St. Valentine story goes, the saint approached a couple that was arguing and asked them to make peace. After offering a rose, he told them both to hold the stem and pray to God that their love would live forever. The couple then asked St. Valentine to marry them. The news spread and many couples decided to make a pilgrimage to see the bishop on the 14th of each month, until the bishop died in 273 B.C.
Long before the time of Saint Valentine, Cupid played a central role in the ancient Greek and Roman celebrations dedicated to lovers and lovemaking. Venus had a son named Cupid, the impish archer and “go-between” we know of today. Cupid came to represent the many aspects of love: playful, tender, sexual, and passionate. His invisible arrows of sweet destiny would pierce the hearts of both mortals and gods alike, making them fall hopelessly and helplessly in love, oftentimes beyond all hope or reason!
We know Cupid as a smiling mischievous child armed with his bow and arrow ready to pierce lovers’ hearts with romantic love. Originally, he was shown as a handsome young man with a bow and arrows. But, the Victorian era wanted to help make Valentine’s Day more proper for women and children. So, they tossed out this handsome Roman Adonis guy and made cupid more of a chubby baby!
Since then, Valentine’s Day has been celebrated every year throughout the world, with couples exchanging flowers, sweets and gifts, all with a single objective – to devote 24 hours to the celebration of their love.
In February, come and see how Cupid’s arrows can pierce even the black hearts of three bandits in the melodrama Three Bandits and a Baby – a world premiere opening February 24th!