Valentine's Day 2021: History and significance of festival of love, sacrifice

According to some references, the event is associated with a traditional sacrifice of a goat or a dog, whose flesh was slapped on women in the hope that it would boost fertility

FP Trending February 13, 2021 16:50:23 IST
Valentine's Day 2021: History and significance of festival of love, sacrifice

Representational image. AP

Valentine's Day is celebrated every year on 14 February. The date is also called Saint Valentine's Day as well as the Feast of Saint Valentine. While broadly celebrated as a day dedicated to love, it has its origins as a minor Western Christian feast day in honour of Christian martyr Saint Valentine.

As per a report in BBC, St Valentine was a priest from Rome in the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II, who was known to be embroiled in several conflicts and wars, had been struggling to maintain a formidable army. Claudius believed that men in his empire were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families. As a result, he banned marriages among his subjects because he thought that married men were incompetent soldiers. Valentine felt that the rule was unfair and thus broke it and arranged marriages in secret. When the emperor found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. He was executed on 14 February around the year 270 AD

It is believed that while in jail, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and when he was taken to be killed on 14 February, he penned her a love letter signed, 'From your Valentine.'

However, it is also believed that Valentine's Day might have had a darker origin. The ancient Roman festival Lupercalia has been one of the earliest records of the term Valentine's Day. The event, usually held on 15 February would see a traditional sacrifice of a goat or a dog. A group of priests called the Luperci would then cut off a piece of the skin of the two animals, touch it to their foreheads and then strike it against every woman nearby.

They believed that it would make the women more fertile.

However, by the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius replaced the festival with St Valentine's Day.

There are also reports that the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who penned The Canterbury Tales during the Middle Ages was the first to link the day to love. This started the tradition of courtly love, a ritual of expressing love and admiration, usually in secret.

As per The Indian Express, despite its origins, Valentine's Day celebrations did not catch on in India until 1992. The day gained prominence through television commercials and radio programmes, along with economic liberalisation.

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