Saint Valentine’s Day embraces a time of year that is historically associated with love and fertility. It encompasses the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera in Ancient Athens and the Ancient Roman festival of Lupercus, the god of fertility.
The priests of Lupercus would perform a traditional purification ritual, slaughtering goats to the god, and after consuming wine, they would run through the streets of Rome holding aloft the skins of the goats touching anyone they met. The occasion compelled floods of young women to the streets in the belief that being touched would improve their chances of conceiving and bring forth easy childbirth. There remains some speculation over the exact date of the celebration.
Today’s celebration is also known as Trifon Zarezan. The festivities on the Day of Trifon Zarezan mark the dividing line between the ending winter and the nearing spring. The transition between the two seasons stirs the most fierce conflict in the annual natural cycle – it is the transition between the dead winter season and the invigorating powers of the following seasons. That is why, namely in this period, rituals are performed to strengthen and ensure a triumph of vitality and fruitfulness. Through the rituals, man applies all means for encouraging nature. Women knead special round loafs – a symbol of the fertile field, and generously hand them out to neighbours and relatives. The men go to the fruit-trees which did not bear fruit in the winter and threaten them, ritually, they will hew them off. Then another participant in the ritual promises that in the next spring the trees will once again be fruitful and so, they should be spared. During the festivivities, the man in the home picks up 3 live coals from the hearth. They symbolise the invigorating power of the fire and the sun. Looking at the coals, people try to foretell which crops will yield the most abundant harvest in the new season.