Some fun fast facts for Valentine’s Day. Did you know that:
The feast of St. Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496. Some say that Valentine’s feast day is celebrated in February because the church wanted to Christianize an ancient Roman pagan festival called Lupercalia, which centered around fertility and purification, and also took place in February.
Valentine’s feast day has been celebrated as a lovers’ holiday and a day of romance since the 14th century, when the date was thought to be the beginning of the mating season for birds.
Many claim the closest Jewish equivalent of Valentine’s Day was Tu B’Av (“the fifteenth of Av”):
Tu B’Av, the 15th Day of Av, is both an ancient and modern holiday. Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.). Tu B’Av was almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries but it has been rejuvenated in recent decades, especially in the modern state of Israel. In its modern incarnation it is gradually becoming a Hebrew-Jewish Day of Love, slightly resembling Valentine’s Day in English-speaking countries.
There is no way to know exactly how early Tu B’Av began. The first mention of this date is in the Mishnah (compiled and edited in the end of the second century), where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying, “There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?”(Ta’anit, Chapter 4).