Lupercalia was a Roman feast of purification, dedicated to the she-wolf who saved Romulus and Remus who were the traditional founders of the City of Rome. The centre of the festivities in Rome was a cave called the Lupercal, traditionally the site where the wolf suckled the twin brothers until they were rescued by Faustulus, a shepherd.
The Lupercalia was also called dies Februatus, which seems to be derived from proto-italic word februum for purification by making an offering and from the the purification instruments which were called februa. This is the basis for the Roman month named Februarius and our February.
Marcus Terentius Varro wrote about the Roman year, dividing it into 8 phrases and his spring began on 7th February. This is when the west winds began to blow warmer weather and so farmers ‘purged’ the fields readying them for planting. They would be cleared of old growth and debris, blessed, weeded, pruned with particular attention given to preparing the grain fields, the vineyards, olive trees and fruit trees.
The deity of the month was Neptune.
We are also in the middle of the Parentalia, which began on the 13th February and lasted nine days. It honoured parents and family ancestors. People would visit the family tombs found along the roadsides outside of the City. Here they would honour the ancestors by making offerings. There would be a family banquet and offerings made to the Lares – the household deities. Romans had a household altar for their worship. The Greek Goddess Hestia was the Goddess of the Hearth – the centre of any household, and Vestal was the Roman equivalent. Dickens borrowed the concept of the Household Gods in his Christmas book ‘the Chimes’.