When did Kenyans really start to care about Valentine’s Day. Do we even know the story behind the day? We might not be able to know when exactly Kenyans started celebrating the day of love, but we can trace it’s origins. It’s actually a pretty gruesome story (or stories, given that there are different versions).
A Martyr Killed for love
Valentinus, now known as St Valentine of Terni, was a priest during the 3rd Century in Rome. The Emperor Claudius II, during the time, outlawed marriage for young men because he decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and children. Despite the emperor’s ruling, Valentine continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. He was consequently beaten, stoned then beheaded for his “crime”.
Another version suggests that Valentine was killed for trying to help Christians escape Roman prisons. As you may know, the Roman Empire wasn’t exactly receptive of the Christian faith. Christians were thus often captured and put in prisons where they would be beaten and tortured. Another variant of this story claims that while in jail, Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. Before he died, he wrote a letter to her signed “From your Valentine”.
Why February the 14th?
So it is believed that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death/burial. However, there are claims that the Christian church placed the day in the middle of February so as to “Christianize” a Roman pagan celebration. The Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 15th. The event was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus, and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
Without going too much into the details of the festival – a goat would be sacrificed for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The goat’s hide would then be dipped in the blood and then priests would walk down the, slapping women and crop fields with the bloody hide.
Women would be eager to be touched by the hides because they believed they would be fertile and bear children the next year. Later after this, all young women would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would choose a name for pairing. These matches would turn into marriage.
When Christianity arose in Rome, Lupercalia was outlawed and deemed Un-christian. Pope Gelasius declared February the 14th, St. Valentine’s Day. It was however years later when the day became associated with love.