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Happy Lupercalia!

From pagan times to the present day, the name
may have changed, but love is eternal

In ancient Roman times, the feast of Lupercalia celebrated the god of fertility.

By Isaac Lamoureux

FROM PAGAN RITUALS to Christian saints, the history of Valentine’s Day is a fascinating journey through time, and diving into the history of this holiday shows how it has evolved into the celebration of love we know today.

The first recorded celebration of Valentine’s Day was in the Roman Empire of AD 496, as the pagan festival of Lupercalia, which was held Feb. 15 and dedicated to the god of fertility, Lupercus. During this festival, men would draw the names of women from a box and pair up for the next year. Some couples would even go on to get married.

The holiday was named for the martyr, St. Valentine – but not until some 12 centuries after his death.

In the early Christian era, the church attempted to turn Lupercalia into a Christian celebration by dedicating it to Saint Valentine, a martyr who was executed on Feb. 14, AD 269.

Despite their efforts, many of the pagan elements of the festival remained, and it wasn’t until the 14th century that the day came to be associated with love and romance. Still, it took until the 15th and 16th centuries for the holiday to become more widespread, when the invention of the printing press allowed for the mass production of romantic poems, love stories and erotica.

As the holiday gained popularity, it became commercialized. In the 19th century, businesses started helping people express their love by selling them chocolates, flowers and cards. Today, Valentine’s Day is a multi-billion dollar industry.

In Edmonton, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many different ways. From romantic dinners in local restaurants to flowers and gifts, there’s something for everyone.

Couples who prefer a private celebration can retreat to the many local parks and lakes that provide picturesque backdrops for romantic picnics or walks.

If eating out is more your style, many restaurants in downtown Edmonton are featuring similar events, with special dinners for couples. For example, The Banquet, in the Ice District, is hosting a Valentine’s Day Seafood Tower for Two.

For singles, there are several events taking place that cater to people looking to meet and mingle.

Low-key celebrations

The Canadian Icehouse is hosting an event titled “Paint Nite: Valentine’s Day Gala: Valentine Stroll.” The artist Elena Russel will take attendees step-by-step from a blank canvas to a masterpiece. Special games and door prizes will be available.

For those who never give up looking for love, the Rec Room in West Edmonton Mall is hosting a speed dating event Feb. 16.

There are also a variety of events for families.

For those who are looking for a more low-key celebration, the City of Edmonton is offering several free outdoor activities, such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Elk Island National Park, or a cozy night in with a movie at one of the city’s many cinemas.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday with a rich history that spans thousands of years. From pagan festivals to a day of love and romance, it’s a holiday that has stood the test of time and continues to be celebrated by millions of people around the world.

No matter your relationship status, there is something for everyone on Valentine’s Day in Edmonton. Whether you’re looking for a romantic night out or an opportunity to meet new people, this holiday is the perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the city – and celebrate the love you have for someone special.

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