Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

A jet climbs the vault of the sky, streaming a hot pink contrail just above bright Venus at sunrise.

Bare trees silhouetted against deep pink clouds. The earth gracefully turns toward its guiding star.

Birds cleave the sky far below the air traffic—a cacophony of song not present even two days ago.

The airplane passes overhead and beyond, disappearing in the western sky leaving a pink track parallel to an aircraft that passed not long before.

The day has begun.

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Most people have an opinion on Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you find it a commercial opportunity that pushes merch, candy, and expensive meals.  Or perhaps to you, it is a heartfelt and warm occasion, a day to remember those we love—be it friend, lover, or family.

The name “Valentine” is likely a do-over by the Christian church to take advantage of a much older pagan holiday, the Roman festival Lupercalia.  Itself, Lupercalia descends from fertility and ritual cleansing festivals that populated the ancient world in the months between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.

Lupercalia, on February 15, carried and celebrated the concerns of people of the day.  Following the sacrifice of a male goat, near-naked young men ran the bounds of the city or village, ritualistically sweeping bloody strips of the hide of the sacrificial animal over willing women and girls. The touch of the sanctified skin was believed to promote pregnancy, ease childbirth, and purify the community.

Lupercalia—and our Valentine’s Day—are among the festivals that signal the coming of spring.  Imbolg, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter all find their roots in the vernal equinox, a solar moment that translates to the emergence of the growing year, hope for fertile fields, and the greening of the earth in this hemisphere.

In this day, a semi-nude man swinging a shaggy hide around the city limits would result in more than one call to local law enforcement. Yet then, as now, internal strife and pestilence rend community and country. The events of the last two years remind us of our interdependence—of what we can do by working together, and how we will die to hold fast to our ignorance.

Valentine’s Day and its cohort speak to deeper tides than candy hearts and spring cleaning. While death is never far, we have these years been challenged for our survival. Whatever your take on “Valentine’s Day,” it is not a bad idea to consider each other with gratitude for what remains and for the seasons ahead.

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