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 Ututu Oma Ndi Nkem, Happy Valentine In Advance.

  Growing up, my uncle who was a Dibia always used the second week of Nov. to celebrate the new yam. He usually starts the day with series of Igo Ofo, and the bloodletting of different animals, after which my aunty “his wife” would cook the food and it would be shared with everyone, including; those who are mentally unstable. While sharing these foods, some families often reject the food and would always want to encourage my mom not to eat or allow me and my siblings to eat this food.

Their excuse and rationale were that the food was used dedicated to “Alusi” and as a Christian “One should not be yoked with the devil”. The same religious isolation I experienced as a child, is what 99 other traditionalists are currently experiencing. Many of us would offer sacrifices to our Chi and our family members would reject it, some others would perform sacrifice before an Ihu mmuo and when parts of the meat are brought home, we tend to eat it alone and some of us can’t even warm or prepare the food using kitchen utensils from our mother’s kitchen because she sees this as a “Sin” and do not want to be yoked. So since I started this blog and other social media pages, I’ve made it my mission to use every major catholic/Christian feast I know as an opportunity to point out to our people the pagan origins of these feasts. 

Before Christianity, the ancient Roman festival Lupercalia, was celebrated from February 13th to 15th. Lupercalia was known as a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. During this festival, rituals were performed involving the sacrifice of animals and the whipping of women, this is believed to promote fertility and ward off evil spirits. Another connection is the Roman feast of Juno Februata “Goddess of love”, celebrated on February 14th. Juno Februata was a purification and fertility ritual dedicated to Juno, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, where women would seek blessings for their marriages and fertility. Over time, as Christianity spread and became the dominant religion in Rome, these pagan festivals were gradually Christianized. Pope Gelasius I established February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day in the 5th century, possibly to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.

How was Lupercalia transformed into St. Valentine’s Day?

One theory is that the Christian Church wanted to replace the pagan holiday of Lupercalia with a Christian holiday. So they chose to commemorate St. Valentine, a Christian martyr who was executed on February 14th in the 3rd century AD. Early church records tell of at least three Christian martyrs named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were executed on or around February 14th, so the church may have chosen this date to honor these martyrs and replace the pagan feast of Lupercalia, killing two birds with one stone.

Also Read: Itu Alusi In Igbo Culture.

Why did the Christian Church want to replace pagan holidays with Christian ones?

The Christian Church wanted to replace pagan holidays with Christian ones as part of its effort to spread the Christian faith and convert people to Christianity. In the early days of Christianity, many people practiced pagan religions, which included a variety of festivals and celebrations throughout the year. These festivals were often tied to nature and the changing of the seasons, and they involved various rituals, sacrifices, and other practices.

As Christianity began to spread, the Church saw the pagan festivals as a threat to its mission. Some Church leaders even sought to replace the pagan festivals with Christian holidays that had similar themes or occurred on the same dates. For example, the celebration of Christmas was introduced in the 4th century as a Christian alternative to the pagan festival of Saturnalia “In Ancient Rome”, which celebrated the winter solstice.

The Church believed that by replacing pagan festivals with Christian ones, it could capture the attention and interest of the people who celebrated these festivals, thereby attracting them to Christianity. Over time, many of these Christian holidays became popular and were widely adopted, eventually becoming part of the cultural traditions of many regions of the world.

How did the Church expect replacing pagan holidays with Christian ones to aid in their mission of spreading Christianity?

  1. By providing alternative celebrations that were more in line with Christian beliefs: By offering Christian alternatives to pagan festivals, the Church could provide a way for people to celebrate important events and milestones that were more compatible with the Christian worldview and teachings.
  2. By incorporating elements of pagan festivals into Christian celebrations: In some cases, the Church incorporated elements of pagan festivals into Christian celebrations, such as the Christmas tree, which may have been adapted from the ancient practice of bringing evergreen trees into homes during the winter solstice.
  3. By creating a sense of continuity between pagan and Christian celebrations: In some cases, the Church sought to create a sense of continuity between pagan and Christian celebrations, by retaining some of the traditions and symbols of the earlier festivals. This allowed people to continue to celebrate and enjoy familiar activities and practices, while gradually aligning them with Christian teachings.

Also Read: What Is Akalogheli (negative energy) in Igbo Spirituality.

By employing these strategies, the Church hoped to make Christianity more appealing and accessible to people, thereby attracting more converts to the faith. As a result, many Christian holidays that were introduced as replacements for pagan festivals became deeply rooted in the cultural traditions of many regions of the world, and are celebrated to this day.

So, whilst we isolate ourselves and breed enmity amongst ourselves with this bible quote of not to be bound or yoked with an unbeliever in this context, we are proudly participating in activities that are historically pagan. So using this information, what do you think about Igbo-Christians who reject sacrificial foods with the claims of it being “UNCHRISTIAN”?

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