If you haven't seen it already, malls, schools, and grocery stores will soon be decorated in bright red and white paraphernalia in preparation for the age old ritual of St. Valentine's Day.
And of course, let's not forget the multi-million dollar Valentine's Day industry which churns out chocolate, cards and lingerie, for instance, for eager customers "celebrating" this romantic occasion, which some Christians claim is commemorating the death of a saint by the name of Valentine.
But behind this occasion, there is a root of paganism.
The St. Valentine's Day we know today, as Muslim scholar Abdullah Hakim Quick explains in the video Holiday Myths (Sound Vision, 1997), has its roots in the February 15 pagan Roman "Feast of the Wolf" which was associated with sex between unmarried young people on that specific day.
Like so many other rituals, it has been adapted and adopted by Christianity, partly as a way to establish Christian ethics without completely giving up pagan practices. In this case, Valentine's Day on February 14, from a Christian perspective, is meant to commemorate the death of the Italian bishop of the same name. He was executed for conducting secret marriages for soldiers. The Roman emperor had forbidden soldiers from marrying.
Apart from being an Islamic scholar, Quick is also an historian. He presents the history, based on research, behind celebrations like St. Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas, Easter and New Year's. He points out that these occasions, which are usually marked by excessive consumerism and superstition, are in reality a hodge podge of Christian beliefs, pagan rituals, and local cultural influences.
He also gives an excellent explanation of specific traditions associated with various holidays.
For example, he talks about how Santa Claus is often associated with St. Nicholas.
But who really was St. Nicholas?
He was definitely not an overweight, overbearing man who slid down chimneys once a year. Rather, he was a Christian bishop who lived during the fourth century in Turkey. In fact, he was really a thin man, since he fasted regularly. The chubby Santa (notice how if you do a switcheroo, it spells Satan-just a thought) is a product of paganism.
Quick also reminds us how Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and his teachings stand in stark contrast with the crass materialism now associated with the December 25 "holiday", which was supposed to be inspired by this Prophet's birth.
But Quick doesn't just expose the paganism behind the partying. He also suggests practical ways Muslims can take a firm stand and deal with these "holidays" and rituals, without offending or condemning those who practice them. He mentions the common ground worshipers of One God, for instance, have in objecting to practices like Halloween. There is also a brief question and answer session at the end of the video which deals with issues like gift-giving on some of these occasions.
This is an excellent video for parents, teens, and even non-Muslim teachers, co-workers, etc. who can not only discover an Islamic position on these holidays, but the real origin of the occasions they themselves celebrate.