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VALENTINE’S DAY IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Valentine’s Day is also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine and is celebrated every year on February 14. The origin could be traced as a western Christian Feast Day honoring one or two Christian martyrs. The Valentine of Rome was imprisoned by Claudius I for refusing to convert to his religious faith and was subsequently executed in 269 A.D. It is reported that before his execution, he miraculously treated Julia, the blind daughter of the jailer. Numerous later additions to the legend  related it to the theme of love. By an 18th-century legend, he was believed to sign “Your Valentine” in the farewell letter sent to Julia before his execution.

A Feast was established by Pope Gelasius I on February 14 in 496 A.D. in his honor as he died on the same date in 269 A.D. He was also added to the Calendar of Saints by the Pope. The relics kept in a Church in Rome remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages when it was transferred to another church in Basilica during the pontification of Nicholas IV. The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is believed to be in the Parliament of Fowls (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer. February 14 as an annual celebration of love appears in the Charter of the Court of Love issued by Charles VI of France in 1400 describing lavish festivities including a feast, jousting and dancing.

Slowly and steadily the Valentine’s Day celebrations started to catch up all around the world in one form or the other. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons. The paper lace were introduced in the mid-19th century. 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in the United Kingdom in 1835. After the invention of the postage stamp in 1840, the number of Valentines posted increased to 400000 sent in just one year. In the United States, the first mass-produced cards of embossed paper lace were sold shortly after 1847. In 1868, the British chocolate company Cadbury created fancy decorated box of chocolates in the shape of a heart for Valentine’s Day.  It is estimated that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US alone. Half of those valentines are given to the family members other than the husband or wife. The valentine cards exchanged in schools are around 1 billion and teachers receive the most valentines. In the later 20th and early 21st centuries, these customs spread to other countries, like those of Halloween or Santa Claus. Many films have been produced depicting various aspects of Valentine’s Day including ‘A Charlie Brown Valentine ’ (2002). In India, there was a tradition of adoring Kamadeva manifested by the erotic carvings in the Khajuraho and by the writing of the Kamasutra. In modern times, religious fundamentalists in India have considered Valentine’s Day celebrations as cultural contamination from the West. Despite all obstacles, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular being it a symbol of love and should be celebrated as such as love has no race, caste, religion or boundaries.

 

@Rakesh Agarwal



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