The Season of Love

Feburary has long been celebrated as the month of romance since Valentine's Day falls in Feburary. But why has 14th Feburary come to be celebrated the way it is. There are many legends regarding this. As per one such legend, this festival has originated from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used to observed annually on February 15. But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed for and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. Lupercalia was no exception. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine's Day honors.


Most scholars believe that this St. Valentine was a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome. He attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II who ruled during this time. Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men because he believed that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families. Therefore, to assure quality soldiers, he outlawed marriage and issued an edict forbidding marriage. The ban on marriage was a great shock for the Romans. But they dared not voice their protest against the mighty emperor. The kindly priest Valentine also realized the injustice of the decree. He saw the trauma of young lovers who gave up all hopes of being united in marriage. He planned to counter the monarch's orders in secrecy. Whenever lovers thought of marrying, they went to Valentine who called them afterwards to a secret place, and joined them in holy matrimony. And thus he secretly performed many marriages for young lovers. But such things cannot remain hidden for long. It was only a matter of time before Claudius came to know of this "friend of lovers," and had him arrested. While awaiting his sentence in prison, Valentine was approached by his jailor, Asterius. It was said that Valentine had some saintly abilities and one of them granted him the power to heal people. Asterius had a blind daughter and knowing of the miraculous powers of Valentine, he requested the latter to restore the sight of his blind daughter. The Catholic legend has it that Valentine did this through the vehicle of his strong faith, a phenomenon refuted by the Protestant version which agrees otherwise with the Catholic one. Whatever the fact, it appears that Valentine in some way did succeed to help Asterius' blind daughter. Meanwhile, a deep friendship had been formed between Valentine and Asterius' daughter. It caused great grief to the young girl to hear of Valentine's imminent death. It is said that just before his execution, Valentine asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to her "From Your Valentine," a phrase that has lived ever after. Valentine is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD.


Ever since that time, 14th February began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines, on this day to the women they admired. With the coming of Christianity, the day came to be known as St. Valentine's Day. But it was only during the 14th century that St. Valentine's Day became definitively associated with love. UCLA medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly, author of "Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine", credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine's Day with romance. In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer's "The Parliament of Fowls," the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine's Day are related: "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate." By the Middle Ages, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France. The association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continued through the Middle Ages. The holiday evolved over the centuries. By the 18th century, gift-giving and exchanging hand-made cards on Valentine's Day had become common in England. Hand-made valentine cards made of lace, ribbons, and featuring cupids and hearts began to be created on this day and handed over to the man or woman one loved. This tradition eventually spread to the American colonies.


In 1840s Valentine's Day greeting cards began to be commercially produced in the U.S. The first American Valentine's Day greeting cards were created by Esther A. Howlanda Mount Holyoke. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures. It was when Howland began Valentine's cards in a large scale that the tradition really caught on in the United States. Today, Valentine's Day is one of the major holidays in the U.S. and has become a booming commercial success. Approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas in the USA.


Today, Valentine's Day is no longer looked down as a western import and is celebrated with great fervour in India as a day of love and togetherness. Card and Gift shops and shopping malls are beautifully decorated with the traditional symbols of love- heart shaped balloons, red roses, doves and Cupid shooting his bow to inspire romantic love. Restaurants, Discos, Pizza parlours, Multiplexes and Cineplexes do brisk business as couples celebrate this day of love.


Wondering what to gift your Valentine this season? The all season top Valentine gifts are: chocolates, red roses, cards, teddy bears and candies. But, you can be unique and think of something your sweetheart really enjoys and spring a nice surprise!! What about a meal cooked by you or a poem specially composed by you. Remember, it is the feeling that counts. Everybody in this world loves to feel special and wanted and Valentines Day is a perfect day to make someone in your life feel special!