St. Valentine’s Day, …also known as Lupercalia …February 14th. No matter how you know the day, it is one that is supposed to be special and full of love.
The ancient Romans marked the ides of February with Lupercalia, a dedication to the god of agriculture, Faunus, and a celebration of the founders of Rome: Remus and Romulus. It was a holiday that was supposed to purify Rome as well as bring fertility to the women of the city. It is said that priests of the order Luperci would sacrifice a goat and a dog (for fertility and purity respectively) after which they would soak strips of the hides in the sacred blood. The Luperci would then tie the strips on sticks and walk through the city gently slapping women on the arms or legs to purify them and make them more fertile. It was called Lupercalia in honor of the she-wolf that nourished and brought up Remus and Romulus. Another rite performed for Lupercalia that included all the single young women is where they would put the names into a giant urn. Then the bachelors of Rome would reach in and grab a name. The man and woman would then be paired until the next Lupercalia. While some of these matches didn’t take, many did and weddings abounded later that year. So, we know that at least as far back as ancient Rome that February was a time for love and lovers.
Outlawing Lupercalia as unchristian in the fifth century, Catholic Pope Gelasius rededicated the holiday and made February 14th the Feast of St. Valentine. There are three saints who claim the name of Valentine, and, today, the Catholic Church is not completely sure which saint was the inspiration for Valentine’s Day. One story is that in the third century, Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than married men, so he forbade young men to marry. Valentine was a priest who married young lovers in secret and was eventually beheaded for disobeying the emperor. Another story of a Valentine is that he was the Bishop of Terni and ministered to persecuted Christians. The third story is that a Valentine helped Christians escape from Roman prisons. When he was eventually caught and imprisoned, he fell in love with the daughter of his jailer and sent her a love note signed “your Valentine.” This was perhaps the first Valentine card. The first commercial valentine cards in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. They usually depicted Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts and flowers.
With all this love in the air, I took to the streets to find out how the people of Lyons view and celebrate this holiday.
I spoke to Linda Pecone outside The Stone Cup and found that while she likes to celebrate love, she is rather “bah-humbug” about the holiday. “I just feel like it’s another way to make money and get people to eat crappy food.” While Linda may not support the commercialization of the holiday, her husband has been celebrating since February first. “He calls it “The Two Weeks Before Valentine’s Day,’ and every few days he brings me another gift.” She says that her best Valentine’s Day though was when her husband surprised her and booked a room at the Broadmoor in southern Colorado.
I was able to catch up with Roger Flynn at the Barking Dog Cafe where he was getting his morning coffee. Roger absolutely believes in the magic of Valentine’s Day; “I proposed to my wife on Valentine’s Day… and we’re coming on 29 years [of marriage] now.” The pandemic has been wreaking havoc on every holiday we have celebrated, and it seems that it will be no different for Valentine’s Day. “I proposed at the Green Briar Inn, so we usually go there, so I don’t know if they are going to be open or not.” Regardless of plans, Roger regards Valentine’s Day as just a day to make sure the one you love knows you love them. “You don’t often times say you love somebody as much as you should. So, it’s not the mythology that I believe in, it’s just a secular holiday. But you go around showing your love for someone, and that’s good for me. I remember this one Valentine’s Day when we were first married, and I was taking the bus home and stopped at King Soopers for a big bunch of mylar balloons and chocolates and flowers and everything. When I got back on the bus, I didn’t really fit, I was taking up two seats! But the people on the bus were really understanding.”
Connie McGuire of Red Canyon Art Co. on Main St. is undecided on Valentine’s Day. “Sometimes I partake and sometimes I don’t. But I’ve always felt it for my children and my family. The idea of just a day to celebrate connection and love and having that in your life… If you have a partner, to just take that day, and let love be your focus, and think about how sweet it is… When do you ever get to just sit and revel in that?!” While McGuire see it as a “Hallmark holiday,” this allows her to take the holiday to where she wants to be. “My plans aren’t set yet but were trying to do an overnight somewhere, but it might just turn into a day where we stay at home and spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.”
She recommends that with the pandemic, this is the perfect year to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit. “It’s a time for people to express love to each other, be it your mother, father, brother, sister, partner. It’s a great year to send out lots of love. If you haven’t participated before, it’s a good time to jump in and say, ‘It’s all about love.” Being in the gift-giving business around this time of year has been interesting for McGuire. “People come in and they just want to do something nice for someone they love. I kind of revel in owning a store and being able to witness people doing that for each other.”
When I asked Yuriko Vega if she believed in the magic of Valentine’s Day, she replied with a very affirmative, “I sure do.” Vega said her belief in the holiday comes from “just believing in love.” She is particularly excited about this Valentine’s Day because this is her first one with her partner. “My boyfriend’s birthday is the Friday before Valentine’s Day, so we are just going to celebrate with the family. We’re going to cook some food and stay inside.” I asked if the pandemic had hurt or helped her plans, and Vega replied emphatically, “It’s even better because it’ll just be in the family.” She intends for romance and gift-giving to be the theme of the weekend. “I like being romantic so I’ll be decorating and everything. He’s romantic too, so I’m hoping that after this Valentine’s Day I will have a great ‘Valentine’s Day story’ to tell.”
While Valentine’s Day has a rich history, remember it is about showing the love you feel for others. Some say it with cards, some say it with flowers and sweets, some say it by asking for their loved one’s hand in marriage. However you plan to say “I love you,” the important thing is saying it. So be it a Zoom call, a walk in the park, or an overnight trip, or a candlelit dinner, plan to spend time with your loved ones this weekend.
See Last Month’s Person on the Street: New Year’s Resolutions.