Roses, chocolates and beautiful heart-shaped doilies are usually the images that come to mind when we think of Valentine’s Day. Red hearts and heartfelt cards decorate every store, and all coupled-up people have a little spring in their step. But what most people do not know is that it did not start out as a day of love. Its origins lie in drunken festivals and jail cells.
This day did not start out with poems and chocolates
but with a bunch of drunken and nude Romans. Every year, ancient Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia from 13 to 15 February. This pagan fertility festival celebrated an ancient god who protected the people from wolves. To begin the celebration, men would sacrifice a goat and a dog, and then whip women with the animal hides.
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During this naked, drunken party
the town’s young women would get in line and wait for the men to hit them for they believed that it would make them fertile. After a good time of being whipped with dead animals, the ladies then had a chance to be included in a matchmaking lottery. The men drew names and then were “coupled” with that woman for the night.
In the 3rd century,
Roman emperor Claudius II ordered two men (Valentine and Valentine) to death on 14 February. They were executed in different years, but the Catholic Church later honoured them both as martyrs and named 14 February as St Valentine’s Day.The story goes that one of the Valentine’s who became a martyr was a Roman priest known for standing up for love. Emperor Claudius II (who later ordered Valentine’s death) was dealing with a crumbling empire in the third century.
In a desperate attempt to hold it together, he decided to ban all marriages of young people because he believed single soldiers fought better than married ones.Father Valentine was not a fan of this idea and continued to perform marriages in secret. Once he was caught, he was imprisoned and later killed. During his time in jail, legend has it that young children used to visit and pass him notes into his jail cell.
Shakespeare is credited with transforming Valentine’s Day
into a day to celebrate romantic love. He and Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about the holiday as a day to celebrate romantic love. Shakespeare also popularized the day as a holiday.Centuries after the holiday was established, people began sending cards to each other on this day. During the 18th century, couples in England started sending cards made of paper and lace to each other. In 1797, a book ‘The Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ was published to teach men how to write an appropriate love note.
In the 19th century,
factories started to produce paper cards. In 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City offered Valentine’s cards. Each year, more than one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent around the world. Only Christmas beats 14 February for its number of cards sent. According to economic pundits, this celebration is a multi-billion dollar industry with the chunk of spending on gifts and candy. Jewellery and flowers also account for a good collection.
The celebration of Valentine’s Day in India
began to become popular following 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.
In medieval era,
the acceptance of public affection died off. Lovers from different castes have been prosecuted and sometimes there have been honour killings as well. Public display of affection such as holding hands or kissing is considered unacceptable in India even today.
Following economic liberalization in the early 1990s,
a new middle class emerged who could afford access to foreign TV channels and card shops. Valentine’s Day became popular among this middle class, but not much in the lower economics classes. Many young and working Indians live away from their families. This gives, especially women, a choice in their relationships. The interest in dating sites has also increased. Commercial establishments have attempted to cash in on this new sub-culture.
Unrequited love is sometimes met with harassment,
which is known by the euphemism ‘eve-teasing’; and occasionally, it becomes more violent. There have also been acid attacks.Various political parties have condemned it as an unwelcome influence of western culture on India. Some also consider this a scam by corporations for their economic gains.Activists have been known to raid card shops and burn Valentine’s Day cards and flowers.
They also throw rotten tomatoes at couples in parks, roads and even in restaurants. Some organizations put up billboards warning couples against the public display of affection. They are also threatened with their photographs being sent to their parents.Couples roaming in public parks are sometimes caught by vigilantes and their hair is cut off & their faces are painted black to humiliate them. Some groups conduct marriages of different animals like goat and dog, or dog and horse, to symbolise that the love displayed on this day is fake.
Between February 3 and 15, 2010,
Pune police proscribed “gathering in groups and disturbing peace, playing drums or any other music systems loudly, showing of affection in ways that tantamount to obscenity, throwing colours under influence of alcohol, disturbing peace in public places and obstructing traffic, doing vulgar acts in schools, colleges and encouraging anti-social activities” to be under Section 144 of the CrPC (unlawful assembly) in all public and private places under the jurisdiction of the Pune police commissioner. They declared that those found violating the order would be punished under Section 188 (Disobedience to Order Duly Promulgated by Public Servant) of the IPC.
In 2015, Chhattisgarh officially declared 14 February every year as ‘Matru-Pitru Divas’ (Parents’ Day). Though the state government had started observing the day from 2008, separate circulars with instructions were issued in 2013-14 in this regard. On this day, parents are invited to school and students offer their prayers to them.
True Love Day:
Millions of the spiritual followers of Dera Sacha Sauda celebrate 14 February as True Love Day by extending humanitarian works across the globe following the holy teachings of the Present Spiritual Master Revered Saint Dr Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan. On this day the Dera Sacha Sauda followers render selfless service like help in the marriages of the poor girls, build houses for homeless, and distribute sweets & clothes to the needy so as to be worthy of the True Love of the Spiritual Master.