Valentine’s Day (or Saint Valentine’s Day) is observed on February 14 each year. Today Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, mostly in the West, although it remains a working day in all of them. The original “St. Valentine” was just a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saint named Valentinus. All the modern romantic connotations were added several centuries later by poets.
The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).
Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
Valentine’s Day is an old tradition thought to have originated from a Roman Festival known as Lupercalia, according to History.com.
It was held on February 15 as a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture.
During the celebrations boys would draw names of girls from a box and the pair would be partners during the festival. These matches often led to marriage.
The festival survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed at the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St Valentine’s Day.
Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales writer, may have actually been behind Valentine’s Day. The medieval English poet took quite a few liberties with history. He’d drop his poetic characters into real-life historical events leaving readers wondering if that’s what really happened.
There is no actual record of Valentine’s Day before Chaucer’s poem in 1375.
It’s in Parliament of Foules that he links the tradition of courtly love to the St Valentine’s feast day – the tradition didn’t exist until after his poem.
The poem refers to February 14 as the day of birds coming together to find a mate. “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he wrote and maybe invented Valentine’s Day as we now know it.
The St Valentine that inspired the holiday may have been more than one man. The saint officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church was a real person who died around AD 270. An account from 1400s describes Valentine as a priest who was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed.
The emperor had banned marriage as he thought single men made better soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he celebrated marriages in secret.
When the emperor found out he was thrown in jail and sentenced to death.There are similarities between the priest’s and bishop’s stories, which leads people to believe they are the same man.There’s so much confusion around St Valentine that the Church stopped veneration of him in 1969 – though he is still listed as an official saint.”Valentinus” is from the Latin word for worthy, strong or powerful, and was a popular name between the second and eighth centuries AD meaning there are several martyrs with the same name.
There are actually a dozen Valentines listed and there’s even a Pope Valentine. The actual day we celebrate is known as St Valentine of Rome to set him apart. Valentine did help marry couples in secret, which is arguably very romantic.
He is the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy among other things, like the plague, fainting and travelling. That doesn’t stop people calling on his help for those romantically involved. He’s now also patron of engaged couples and happy marriages.
There is a story that Valentine sent to prison letter to a young girl he had fallen in love with and signed it “From your Valentine”. The idea of Valentine’s card originated from it.
Why February 14
Some believe that Valentine’s Day’s is celebrated mid-February to mark the anniversary of St Valentine’s death. Others maintain that the Christian church decided to place St Valentine’s feast day at this time of the year in an effort to ‘Christianize’ the pagan festival of Lupercalia. Roses have been the symbol of love since the early 1700s when Charles II of Sweden brought the Persian poetical art known as the “language of flowers” to Europe. Throughout the 18th century, ladies loved their floral dictionaries, which listed the symbolic meanings of different flowers, according to YourTango.com.
The red rose was believed to be the flower favored by Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love, and has therefore come to represent that.
Cupid, the god of desire
Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, affection and attraction. He is the son of Venus, goddess of love, and war god Mars. Cupid in Latin is ‘amor’, which means love. It wasn’t until the 18th century that Valentine’s Day took off in England. Lovers began to send trinkets, cards and flowers to their loved ones.
A huge amount of printed cards would get sold. In 1913 Hallmark Cards in Kansas City began mass producing specific Valentine’s Day cards.
Now about a billion cards are sold every year and it’s the second biggest card sending time of the whole year.
V-Day in India
The celebration of Valentine’s Day in India began to become popular following the economic liberalization. There have been protests against the celebrations by groups who consider it a western influence. Almost every year, law and order problems occur on 14 February in many cities in India due to protests.
Hindu right-wing parties and Muslim organizations have condemned Valentine’s Day as an unwelcome influence of western culture on India. Some also consider this a scam by corporations for their economic gain. Shiv Sena has called it an attack of the west on Indian culture that it is attracting youth for commercial gain. It has also called the festival shameless and contrary to Indian culture.
Another right-wing organization has said that if its activists catch couples in public on Valentine’s Day, they would be forcibly married. If the couples resist, then the girl with will be forced to tied rakhi to the boy, a ritual which would make them siblings.
Other political parties and religious groups who have been known to protest Valentine’s Day are, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Sri Ram Sena, Students Islamic Organisation of India, Hindu Munnani, Hindu Makkal Katchi, etc. Activists have been known to raid card shops and burn Valentine’s Day cards and flowers. Members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have also been known to throw rotten tomatoes at couples.