My husband and I shared our first date on Valentine’s Day about a decade ago. It was a few days after my third boyfriend broke up with me – following a Valentine’s Day dance, of all things. After encouragement from a friend, he rushed into the tutoring room on campus where I worked. He caught his breath and bashfully asked me to come over for dinner. I accepted his invitation since I thought he was cute and was starting to enjoy his company. At the time, I was exploring different Pagan paths, but he knew I had been working with a Wiccan circle. The clever guy decided on the topic of Wicca for a college research paper and asked to interview me for more information. (I like to remind him of his adorable plot from time to time.) He and his two brothers made dinner for two other girls and me. Then we played board games. It was really sweet and I’ll never forget that date, even though we didn’t become a serious couple for another month or so. After a couple years, we stopped celebrating Valentine’s Day. We were content to avoid the commercialism, and the Catholic overtones irritated me. I came to preferred the amorous, May holiday of Bealtaine instead.
Along came Bee…
Once more, another ambiguously secular holiday has arrived, and my daughter is entranced by the dominant culture. It’s hard to avoid Valentine’s Day. The colorful pink and red hearts, bears, and flowers quickly fill a festive gap left by Christmas. My daughter was excited about Imbolc, but she is a girly girl who absolutely adores anything pink. She’s learned about Valentine’s Day from several favorite kid shows and can’t stop talking about it.
So what to do?
I started to read more about Lupercalia, the Roman fertility celebration and ritual associated with Faunus. It’s very interesting, but not very child-friendly (except, of course, for making children)! And Valentine’s Day is associated with a Christian saint… Some of my readings spoke of the gradual transformation of Lupercalia to Candlemas, a day many equate with Imbolc… but I know that’s controversial as many insist that Imbolc is not the same as Candlemas despite some similarities. Besides, my family already celebrated Imbolc. I don’t feel it’s very similar to Valentine’s Day at all…
I have decided to keep it simple this year. My daughter can handle celebrating love in general. I have some treats for her, and we’ve enjoyed making paper hearts. Actually, it’s a great way to help her with her hand-eye coordination and scissor skills. I fold the paper in half, draw the half-heart shape, and she cuts. For our first round, she practiced writing ABCs – just the initial letter in names of people she loves. M for mama, D for daddy, etc… Today, we made hearts for the Three Kindreds and I let her hang them wherever she wanted. She knew who I was talking about because she would say, “Here Brighid! I made you a heart! This one is for the Ancestors. Look how happy the Ancestors are!” Makes my heart melt. I’m thinking about bringing her outside to make a birdseed heart in the snow for the Nature Spirits.
I’m really curious as to what other Pagan parents, especially those who follow a Celtic hearth culture, do at this time of year. Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Have you found any sources on how the Romanized Gauls may have participated in Lupercalia? Something else, if anything? Let me know in the comments!