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Valentine's Day also called: Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine
It’s that time of the year when, as they say, one can feel the love that would be there in the air. Every year on February 14th, all around the world chocolates, flowers and gifts get exchanged between loved ones, in the name of St.Valentine. But you may be wondering who is this mysterious saint, St.Valentine, and where did this tradition of celebrating love on the occasion of Valentine’s Day and the traditions attached to it. Read further to know more about the origin of Valentine’s Day.
The history of Valentine’s Day and the story of St.Valentine go hand in hand and it’s been a mysterious one. The month of February has long been celebrated as the month of love and romance and Valentine’s Day contains traces of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who really was St.Valentine and what was his contribution so as a day gets celebrated every year in his memory.
The Catholic church have recognized at least three different saints who named Valentine. One of the legends opines that St.Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. The emperor at that time, Claudius II, was of the opinion that single men were performing better as soldiers than compared to the other soldiers with wives and families. Hence, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine understood the injustice and criticality of the situation. Valentine went against the law of Claudius and began performing marriages for young lovers in utter secrecy. Soon emperor Claudius got to know about the actions of Valentine and he sentenced him to death.
Other stories depict Valentine might have been killed while trying to help Christians in escaping the harsh Roman prisons, where the Christians were tortured and often treated like animals. One of the popular stories goes like this, Valentine, who was also in the prison at that time, actually sent the first ever “Valentine” gift himself after falling in love with a beautiful young woman, possibly the daughter of the jailor as she used to come to the prison to meet Valentine. Before Valentine died, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter and signed it off with a note “From Your Valentine” and this expression is still very popular even in this modern world wherein couples call each other their Valentine on the occasion of Valentine’s day. Although the truth behind the story of Valentine is ambiguous as per the stories that are going around for years, Valentine has been enjoying a reputation of a heroic, sympathetic and most importantly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of romantic-guy and it must have made him as one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Many believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to memorialize the death anniversary of Valentine which probably happened around A.D. 270. There are others who claim that the Christian church might have decided to keep St.Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an attempt to ‘Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival which remains dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Roman, Romulus, and Remus.
To start the festival, members of the Luperci, a group of Roman priests gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purification. The priests would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into a pool of sacrificial blood and take it to the streets and gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. One may wonder whether the women were fearful due to this ritual but it is far from the truth. The Roman women welcome the touch of the goat hide because they believed it would make them fertile soon. Later on the day, all the young women in the city would put their names on a big urn. The city’s eligible bachelors then choose a name and become paired for a year with the chosen women and more often then not, such pairings have often ended up in marriage.
Just like the stories above, there are many more stories which take us to the origin of Valentine’s day. Whatever may be the origin of the festival, we should all be very ecstatic that at least there is a day in the year which is reserved for the emotion called love because love is something that makes us humans feel alive. Life wouldn’t have been what it is without the existence of love. And thanks to Valentine’s day, we get to experience those butterflies in our stomachs again.
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