A New Name for an Old Orgy
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN JAPAN
IN BRITAIN, 15-year-old Ann excitedly rips open an envelope that has just arrived in the mail. She pulls out a card. Its front is decorated with dainty hearts. The inside contains a romantic message, and it is signed: “From an admirer.” With dreamy eyes and a rosy blush, Ann lets out a sigh. She is clearly flattered, and yet puzzled. ‘Who sent me this valentine?’ Ann wonders.
In Japan, Yuko has begun working in an office. Valentine Day draws near. Yuko’s calculations show that it will cost 20,000 yen ($200, U.S.) to buy small boxes of chocolates for each of her male coworkers. Yuko spends lunchtime with her girlfriends buying what they call giri-choco—obligatory chocolates.
February 14th is the day on which anxious romantics around the world await to be told, in one way or another, “I love you.” Neither Ann nor Yuko has any idea how this holiday got started. They might be surprised to find out.
The roots of what is now called Valentine Day can be traced back to ancient Greece, where worship of Pan flourished. This mythical half-man-half-goat fertility god had a wild, unpredictable nature that struck terror into humans. Aptly the English word “panic” literally means “of Pan.”
Pan was supposed to watch the flocks while playing his pipes. However, he was easily distracted. Pan had many love affairs with nymphs and goddesses. One sculpture shows Pan making advances to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Eros, the god of love, hovers above them flapping his wings—much like the Cupid found on valentines today.a
In Rome many worshiped a similar god named Faunus. He too was depicted as half man and half goat. Worship of Faunus was prominent at Lupercalia, an orgiastic festival that was observed each year on February 15. During this festival scantily clad men raced around a hill, brandishing goatskin whips. Women who wanted to bear children stood near the path of these runners. Striking a woman with a whip, the Romans believed, would ensure her fertility.
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, Lupercalia was abolished by Pope Gelasius I in the late fifth century C.E.b Yet, today we find a modern-day counterpart prospering under the title: “Saint Valentine’s Day.” There are various theories regarding the origin of this “Christianized” name. According to one story, the third-century Roman emperor Claudius II forbade young men to marry. Valentine, a priest, married young couples secretly. Some say that he was executed on February 14, about 269 C.E. In any case, a “saintly” title cannot conceal the unsavory origin of this celebration. Valentine Day is rooted in pagan rituals and is therefore not celebrated by true Christians. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) Year-round expressions of genuine love are much more rewarding than the passing fancies of a sentimental holiday.
a Herodotus suggests that Pan worship was influenced by the Egyptians, among whom goat worship was common. The phrase “goat-shaped demons” found in the Bible may allude to this form of pagan worship.—Leviticus 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15.
b Some say that Gelasius simply replaced Lupercalia with the “Feast of the Purification.”
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When Love Is Big Business
THE nearing of Valentine Day in Japan stirs up strong feelings—not just of romance but of big business. For decades the chocolate industry urged the public to give sweets as a token of love on February 14. Extensive advertising paid off as sales of chocolates steadily increased.
Unlike the West, the Japanese custom is for the women to buy for the men. But the business of Valentine Day does not end on February 14. One month later, on March 14, the men must reciprocate—with white chocolate. Why? The Daily Yomiuri answers: “The designation of white gifts prevents any stingy or sneaky men from giving back the chocolate they received and neglected to eat.”
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Old-Fashioned Romantic Cuts/Dover