New Delhi: The fourteenth of February every year sees millions around the world celebrating Valentine’s Day. Chocolates, roses, cards and gifts are exchanged and everyone wants to make the day special for their loved one.But why has this day been marked as the day for celebrating love? The story behind this runs way back in history, as early as the 270 A.D. Back then, Claudius II, the Emperor of the Roman Empire thought unmarried men made better soldiers in the army and thus forbade marriage for young men. A bishop by the name of Valentine saw the injustice of this law and continued to conduct marriages in secret. On being discovered, Valentine was put to death by the Emperor.
Another version talks about a bishop named Valentine who falls in love with the jailer’s daughter. The bishop was arrested as he used to help several Christians escape Roman prisons. During his captivity, he used to write letters to the jailer’s daughter ending it with “From your Valentine”. This trend seems to have caught up with the modern day celebrations and is often used by couples to address each other on Valentine’s day. After his death, he was widely known as the “Patron Saint” and also a spiritual overseer of a festival where young Romans distribute cards to convey love and affection. The date on which this festival is held is February 14th. Others believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial.
The character of Valentine, over the years, has thus been portrayed as someone who is kind and benevolent, romantic even. There are also speculations on how the Christian church placed St.Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February so as to ‘christianize’ the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Initially considered an un-Christian festival, Lupercalia was held on February 15th to celebrate fertility. It was also believed, during the Middle Ages, that February 14th was the start of the mating season for birds. Hence, it added on to the premise that the middle of the month should be marked as the day for love and romance. Throughout history, the Christian Church has tried to remove all association of love and romance for this day. However, it has been unsuccessful in its attempts and the day has evolved to what it is today. Hand Cards made from lace and ribbons with symbols such as cupids and hearts were frequently exchanged during the 18th century, especially in England. Gradually, this culture spread to the American colonies. The first Valentine’s day greeting card was created by Esther A. Howlanda Mount Holyoke, a graduate and native of Worcester, Massachusetts. She is popularly known as the ‘Mother of the Valentine’ as it was because of her that card manufacturing started on a large scale. The culture of Valentine’s Day has caught on over the years in India. Right wing groups like Shiv Sena have tried to curb the spirit of this day, however, celebrations continue in full swing. Card companies as well as online gifting companies which promise instant delivery are in huge demand as everyone wants to convey their love on this special day.