Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14: The Valentine's Day


A Valentine's Day image

Graphic Design © Joachim Romeo D'Costa

In the western world, the Valentine's Day (also called Saint Valentine's Day) is a long-standing social tradition. Gradually with the spread of western-type of education, foreign travels, education in western countries, and migrant work, this traditional day is also observed in other parts of the world, including Bangladesh.

On this day lovers demonstrate their love for each other by exchanging Valentine's cards, flowers, sweets including chocolates, and other gifts. Lovers also go to dinners and participate in different entertainments. A red-coloured heart, dove and winged Cupid are the symbols used for the love expressed on the Valentine's day. In English, the word "valentine" came to have two meanings: a person singled out as one's sweetheart on the Valentine's Day, and a greeting card exchanged on this day.

Origin of the Valentine's Day

There are several legends regarding the origin of this day.

According to one legend, Valentinus (in English, Valentine) was a priest in the third century Rome. Emperor Claudius II (214 - 270 AD), thinking that unmarried young men would make better soldiers, forbade married men with wives and children to serve in his army. Valentinus saw injustice in this decree and defied the emperor by secretly performing marriages of young soldiers. When the emperor came to know of this, he ordered him to be killed. The Church then declared him a saint. Later the Valentine's Day came to be observed on February 14, the day of his death.

Another legend has it that, in ancient times, for 800 years, Romans observed the celebration of Lupercalia on February 15. This feast day honoured Lupercus, the god of agriculture and shepherds. On this day young women would leave their names in an earthen pot and young men would draw the names and pair with the girls accordingly and be their sexual companions for the year. Pope Gelasius I was not happy about the pagan sexual emphasis of the festival. He wanted to "christianize" the feast day by transferring it to February 14, the day St. Valentine (in Latin, St. Valentinus) died. The day continued to be an occasion to seek the affections of young women and a tradition of exchanging handwritten messages of admiration grew out.

Whatever the background of this day, young people enthusiastically observe it with vigour and enthusiasm and express their love for their valentines.

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