On February 14, couples from around the world recognize Valentine’s Day. For most, Valentine’s Day is a day of love, a day to shower your beloved with gifts and tokens of appreciation, to enjoy a nice meal with them, and to have moments of romance.
Many consider it to be a “Hallmark” greeting-card holiday, created by the retail business in order to get people to spend money on flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, jewelry, travel, meals, and other luxuries. However, Valentine’s Day is not a modern creation. Rather, it is a day with ancient roots, both cultural and religious. With many legends and tales surrounding Valentine’s Day, the supposed day of love, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly where and how Valentine’s Day originated.
Valentine’s Day is not a global holiday. It is celebrated in many countries, but its classification as a holiday is somewhat limited. It is also referred to as St. Valentine’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine, which gives the impression that the celebrations on February 14 have Christian roots. However, the day is also said to have Pagan origins.
Some say that Valentine’s Day is rooted in an ancient Roman festival. During Roman times, an annual festival known as Lupercalia occurred from February 13 – 15 of each year. During this festival, men would strip naked and swat young maidens with dog- or goat-skin whips, to increase their fertility. This practice began well before Christianity was adopted within the Roman Empire, but continued after legalization of Christianity occurred.
Greek historian Plutarch described Lupercalia in his works, recording, “Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.”
In “ Lifes of the Principal Saints” , Alban Butler claimed that a practice during Lupercalia, in which men and women would place their names in jars and the names would be drawn to create pairings, was the start of the ritual of exchanging Valentine’s Day love notes. However, there is no evidence linking Valentine’s Day to Lupercalia, or to the practice of pulling names to pair men and women into couples.
Another possibility for the origin of Valentine’s Day involves Christian priest, St. Valentine. It is alleged that at one point, Roman emperor Claudius II banned marriage to prevent young men from avoiding the draft by marrying. Valentinus, a Christian priest, agreed to perform secret marriages for those who wished to become married. However, it has been argued that no such ban on marriage ever took place, and that Claudius II, in fact, urged his men to take multiple wives.
Another story of St. Valentine claims that a priest by such name was jailed when he fell in love with the warden’s daughter. He would write her notes signed “Your Valentine,” for which he was eventually beheaded. Many Christian priests named Valentine were martyrs, and Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 in many Christian denominations. In the Anglican Communion it has the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of saints. The calendar of saints for the Lutheran church includes the feast of St. Valentine. However, in the Roman Catholic Church, the feast of St. Valentine was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.
Throughout modern times, Valentine’s Day has continued to evolve. In 1797, mass-produced Valentine’s cards came into production, after the publication of a book called “ The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” . Rather than writing individual notes to their beloved, men could take from these scripts. In the 19 century in England, paper Valentines became very popular, adorned with embellishments such as ribbon and lace. Mass production of Valentines in the United States began in 1847 when Esther Howland, inspired by a Valentine received from Europe, began selling Valentines through her father’s stationery store. Today, stores around the world mass-produce a wide variety of Valentines cards, with images of hearts and cupid, and containing lace and ribbon. Some of these cards are sentimental and romantic, while other are humorous. Cards are no longer meant solely for one’s beloved, as they are distributed widely among young children in school, given to friends, parents, and other family members.
There are as many ways to observe Valentine’s Day as there are cultures that recognize it. European folk tradition ties St. Valentine to the approach of spring. In Norfolk, England, a mystical character named “Jack Valentine” visits houses delivering candy and presents. In Slovenia as well, the saint is related to spring, and is the patron of beekeepers. February 14 in Finland is for remembering all your friends, rather than lovers. In Japan, China and South Korea, Valentine’s Day is observed with the traditional sweets and gifts, but one month later on White Day, March 14, the favor is expected to be returned in kind, with more presents and chocolate.
LUPERCALIA, a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman, pastoral festival in honour of Lupercus. Its rites were under the superintendence of a corporation of priests called Luperci, whose institution is attributed either to the Arcadian Evander, or to Romulus and Remus. In front of the Porta Romana, on the western side of the Palatine hill, close to the Ficus Ruminalis and the Casa Romuli, was the cave of Lupercus; in it, according to the legend, the she-wolf had suckled the twins, and the bronze wolf, which is still preserved in the Capitol, was placed in it in 296 B.C. But the festival itself, which was held on February 15th, contains no reference to the Romulus legend, which is probably later in origin, though earlier than the grecizing Evander legend. The festival began with the sacrifice by the Luperci (or the flamen dialis) of goats and a dog; after which two of the Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood wiped off with wool dipped in milk; then the ritual required that the two young men should laugh. The smearing of the forehead with blood probably refers to human sacrifice originally practised at the festival. The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the victims and ran in two bands round the walls of the old Palatine city,. the line of which was marked with stones, striking the people who crowded near. A blow from the thong prevented sterility in women. These thongs were called februa, the festival Februatio, and the day dies febraiatus (februare = to purify); hence the name of the month February, the last of the old Roman year. The object of the festival was, by expiation and purification, to secure the fruitfulness of the land, the increase of the flocks and the prosperity of the whole people. The Lupercal (cave of Lupercus), which had fallen into a state of decay, was rebuilt by Augustus; the celebration of the festival had been maintained, as we know from the famous occurrence of it in 44 B.C. It survived until A.D. 494, when it was changed by Gelasius into the feast of the Purification. Lupercus, in whose honour the festival.was held, is identified with Faunus or Inuus, Evander (Eiiavnpos), in the Greek legend being a translation of Faunus (the “kindly”). The Luperci were divided into two collegia, called Quinctiliani (or Quinctiales) and Fabiani, from the gens Quinctilia (or Quinctia) 2 and Fabia; at the head of each of these colleges was a magister. In 44 B.C. a third college, Luperci Julii, was instituted in honour of Julius Caesar, the first magister of which was Mark Antony. In imperial times the members were usually of equestrian standing.
I need to take a little time off. 2016 has been a really rough year for me. As I’m sure it’s been for many of you. I want to wish everyone a Happy Umoja Karamu,Happy Kwanzaa,Merry Christmas or whatever you may celebrate during this season. I’m going to be spending some time with family and friends I haven’t seen in awhile. I hope most of you have not become broke doing a lot of holiday shopping. I didn’t do too much of that this year. But if you do go out and party and decide to drink….be safe out there. Make sure you have a designated driver. People drive like fools during the holidays. It’s time to mentally prepare for 2017 and the fact that Donald Trump will be our President. I’m not sure what the future holds but I feel we may see some historic things happen. I think 2017 will be a bumpy ride. We all need to be prepared for anything. So I want to wish all my black warriors and black queens a safe holiday season and great new year. Black Love,Black Unity and Black Power. Peace,KP.
This grotesque-looking creature is the real spirit of Santa Claus unmasked, and he is a demon spirit known in Germany as “Krampus.” This demon (according to folklore), is supposed to be the evil side-kick of Santa Claus himself or his “alter ego.” Krampus’ role is to scare children into being good. All year long children are taught that if they are “naughty” Krampus would come on Christmas with a switch and beat their bottoms. But if they were “nice” then Santa Clause would come and give them toys and treats. The invention of this creature comes from the popular medieval Christmas plays of the tenth through the sixteenth century. These miracle, moral, mystery and passion dramas acted out scenes from the scriptures and the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. Combining humor and religion, they flourished during the fifteenth century. It is significant that St. Nicholas was a dominant theme among these plays. Much of the myth and outlandish miracles of St. Nicholas originated from these dramas. And much of the bizarre characteristics of Santa were planted in these Christmas plays.—Siefker, Phyllis. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1997.
One of the bizarre jobs of St. Nick’s devilish helper was to “gleefully drag sinners to Hell!” On the eve of December 6th, the myth told that this bearded, white-haired old “saint,” clad in a wide mantel, rode through the skies on a white horse (the rider on a white horse in Revelation 6), together with his slave, the swarthy Dark Helper. This reluctant helper had to disperse gifts to good people, but much preferred to threaten them with his broom-like scourge, and, at a sign of his master, would gleefully drag sinners away to a place of eternal suffering—Renterghem, Tony van. When Santa Was a Shaman. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995.
It is also alarming that Santa’s popular title, “Nick,” is also a common name for “the Devil.” “Old Nick” is a well-known British name for the Devil. “It seems probable that this name is derived from the Dutch Nikken, the devil.”—-Shepard, Leslie A. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. New York: Gale Research Inc. 1991.
Krampus, the original version of Santa’s Elf in Austria, would punish wrongdoers instead of Elohiym. He would bring the children a “bag of switches/branches” to beat them with. In Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 8:17 we learn more about this particular branch. This branch is a reference to the mistletoe and also to the “abominable branch” in YeshaYaHuW (Isaiah) 14 known as “The King of Babylon” (Nimrod) because he was “cut down” like a tree as his limbs were severed by Noah’s son Shem and they were sent to all the provinces in the land of Shinar—The book of Jasher; The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop; The Antiquities, Josephus.
Considering Santa you cannot miss his “alter ego,” who has followed him like a dark shadow since ancient times. There is a devil, called Percht, Bartl, “KRAMPUS” (the Devil), Knecht Ruprecht, or Rotsohler, accompanying Santa Claus in the European Alps. He shows the pre-Christian origin of this custom as a daemon trabant. We should mention here also another figure: Ruebezahl, who is a German mythical, giant-like person, who is a mixture of Krampus (the Devil) and Santa.”—-Santa’s Origin.
How St. Nicholas became Santa Claus
Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 C.E. and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 C.E. on December 6th. He was not canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church until the 1800’s.
Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.
In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.
The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.
In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.
Umoja Karamu (oo-MOH-jah kah-RAH-moo) is a celebration of unity within the African-American family, community, and nation. Umoja Karamu is a Swahili term meaning “unity feast.” Many African Americans celebrate this day as an alternative to the national Thanksgiving Day holiday. The unity feast may also be observed during Kwanzaa celebrations in late December.
The concept of African and African-American unity is centuries old. But during the 1960s and 1970s, it was a major focus of black nationalists. During the 1980s and 1990s, Afrocentric scholars such as Ishakamusa Barashango, lecturer, author, and founder of Philadelphia’s Temple of the Black Messiah, drew further attention to the theme.
Barashango, who died in 2004, argued that African Americans and black people of the diaspora should reject such European-American holidays as Thanksgiving and concentrate instead on understanding Africa’s culture and values that are the distinctive heritage of black people.
In 1971 Brother Edward Simms Jr. of the Temple of the Black Messiah in Philadelphia developed Umoja Karamu to celebrate the African-American family and home. According to Barashango, Simms defined the purpose of Umoja Karamu as “an effort to inject new meaning and solidarity into the Black Family through ceremony and symbol.”
The date for the holiday, the fourth Sunday of November, was established by the Temple of the Black Messiah in Washington, D.C. African Americans in other cities, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago, soon followed the example.
The celebration is based on five periods of African-American life, each represented by a color.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.
The candle-lighting ceremony each evening provides the opportunity to gather and discuss the meaning of Kwanzaa. The first night, the black candle in the center is lit (and the principle of umoja/unity is discussed). One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed.
The seven principles, or Nguzo Saba are a set of ideals created by Dr. Maulana Karenga. Each day of Kwanzaa emphasizes a different principle.
Unity: Umoja (oo–MO–jah)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Self-determination: Kujichagulia (koo–gee–cha–goo–LEE–yah)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
Collective Work and Responsibility: Ujima (oo–GEE–mah)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Cooperative Economics: Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
Purpose: Nia (nee–YAH)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Creativity: Kuumba (koo–OOM–bah)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Faith: Imani (ee–MAH–nee)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Mazao, the crops (fruits, nuts, and vegetables)
Symbolizes work and the basis of the holiday. It represents the historical foundation for Kwanzaa, the gathering of the people that is patterned after African harvest festivals in which joy, sharing, unity, and thanksgiving are the fruits of collective planning and work. Since the family is the basic social and economic center of every civilization, the celebration bonded family members, reaffirming their commitment and responsibility to each other. In Africa the family may have included several generations of two or more nuclear families, as well as distant relatives. Ancient Africans didn’t care how large the family was, but there was only one leader – the oldest male of the strongest group. For this reason, an entire village may have been composed of one family. The family was a limb of a tribe that shared common customs, cultural traditions, and political unity and were supposedly descended from common ancestors. The tribe lived by traditions that provided continuity and identity. Tribal laws often determined the value system, laws, and customs encompassing birth, adolescence, marriage, parenthood, maturity, and death. Through personal sacrifice and hard work, the farmers sowed seeds that brought forth new plant life to feed the people and other animals of the earth. To demonstrate their mazao, celebrants of Kwanzaa place nuts, fruit, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.
Mkeka: Place Mat
The mkeka, made from straw or cloth, comes directly from Africa and expresses history, culture, and tradition. It symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for us to stand on and build our lives because today stands on our yesterdays, just as the other symbols stand on the mkeka. In 1965, James Baldwin wrote: “For history is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the facts that we carry it within us, are consciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.” During Kwanzaa, we study, recall, and reflect on our history and the role we are to play as a legacy to the future. Ancient societies made mats from straw, the dried seams of grains, sowed and reaped collectively. The weavers took the stalks and created household baskets and mats. Today, we buy mkeka that are made from Kente cloth, African mud cloth, and other textiles from various areas of the African continent. The mishumaa saba, the vibunzi, the mazao, the zawadi, the kikombe cha umoja, and the kinara are placed directly on the mkeka.
Vibunzi: Ear of Corn
The stalk of corn represents fertility and symbolizes that through the reproduction of children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One ear is called vibunzi, and two or more ears are called mihindi. Each ear symbolizes a child in the family, and thus one ear is placed on the mkeka for each child in the family. If there are no children in the home, two ears are still set on the mkeka because each person is responsible for the children of the community. During Kwanzaa, we take the love and nurturance that was heaped on us as children and selflessly return it to all children, especially the helpless, homeless, loveless ones in our community. Thus, the Nigerian proverb “It takes a whole village to raise a child” is realized in this symbol (vibunzi), since raising a child in Africa was a community affair, involving the tribal village, as well as the family. Good habits of respect for self and others, discipline, positive thinking, expectations, compassion, empathy, charity, and self-direction are learned in childhood from parents, from peers, and from experiences. Children are essential to Kwanzaa, for they are the future, the seed bearers that will carry cultural values and practices into the next generation. For this reason, children were cared for communally and individually within a tribal village. The biological family was ultimately responsible for raising its own children, but every person in the village was responsible for the safety and welfare of all the children.
Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles
Candles are ceremonial objects with two primary purposes: to re-create symbolically the sun’s power and to provide light. The celebration of fire through candle burning is not limited to one particular group or country; it occurs everywhere. Mishumaa saba are the seven candles: three red, three green, and one black. The back candle symbolizes Umoja (unity), the basis of success, and is lit on December 26. The three green candles, representing Nia, Ujima, and Imani, are placed to the right of the Umoja candle, while the three red candles, representing Kujichagulia, Ujamaa, and Kuumba, are placed to the left of it. During Kwanzaa, on candle, representing one principle, is lit each day. Then the other candles are relit to give off more light and vision. The number of candles burning also indicate the principle that is being celebrated. The illuminating fire of the candles is a basic element of the universe, and every celebration and festival includes fire in some form. Fire’s mystique, like the sun, is irresistible and can destroy or create with its mesmerizing, frightening, mystifying power.
Mishumaa saba’s symbolic colors are from the red, black, and green flag (bendara) created by Marcus Garvey. The colors also represent African gods. Red is the color of Shango, the Yoruba god of fire, thunder, and lightning, who lives in the clouds and sends down his thunderbolt whenever he is angry or offended. It also represents the struggle for self-determination and freedom by people of color. Black is the people, the earth, the source of life, representing hope, creativity, and faith and denoting messages and the opening and closing of doors. Green represents the earth that sustains our lives and provides hope, divination, employment, and the fruits of the harvest.
Kinara: The Candleholder
The kinara is the center of the Kwanzaa setting and represents the original stalk from which we came: our ancestry. The kinara can be shape – straight lines, semicircles, or spirals – as long as the seven candles are separate and distinct, like a candelabra. Kinaras are made from all kinds of materials, and many celebrants create their own from fallen branches, wood, or other natural materials. The kinara symbolizes the ancestors, who were once earth bound; understand the problems of human life; and are willing to protect their progeny from danger, evil, and mistakes. In African festivals the ancestors are remembered and honored. The mishumaa saba are placed in the kinara.
Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup
The kikombe cha umoja is a special cup that is used to perform the libation (tambiko) ritual during the Karamu feast on the sixth day of Kwanzaa. In many African societies libation are poured for the living dead whose souls stay with the earth they tilled. The Ibo of Nigeria believe that to drink the last portion of a libation is to invite the wrath of the spirits and the ancestors; consequently, the last part of the libation belongs to the ancestors. During the Karamu feast, the kikombe cha umoja is passed to family member and guests, who drink from it to promote unity. Then, the eldest person present pours the libation (tambiko), usually water, juice, or wine, in the direction of the four winds – north, south, east, and west – to honor the ancestors. The eldest asks the gods and ancestors to share in the festivities and, in return, to bless all the people who are not at the gathering. After asking for this blessing, the elder pours the libation on the ground and the group says “Amen.” Large Kwanzaa gatherings may operate just as communion services in most churches, for which it is common for celebrants to have individual cups and to drink the libation together as a sign of unity. Several families may have a cup that is specifically for the ancestors, and everyone else has his or her own. The last few ounces of the libation are poured into the cup of the host or hostess, who sips it and then hands it to the oldest person in the group, who asks for the blessing.
When we celebrate Imani on the seventh day of Kwanzaa, we give meaningful zawadi (gifts) to encourage growth, self-determination, achievement, and success. We exchange the gifts with members of our immediate family, especially the children, to promote or reward accomplishments and commitments kept, as well as with our guests. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity and to avoid the chaos of shopping and conspicuous consumption during the December holiday season. A family may spend the year making kinaras or may create cards, dolls, or mkekas to give to their guests. Accepting a gift implies a moral obligation to fulfill the promise of the gift; it obliges the recipient to follow the training of the host. The gift cements social relationships, allowing the receiver to share the duties and the rights of a family member. Accepting a gift makes the receiver part of the family and promotes Umoja.