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Dr. Rajan Philips : Valentine’s Day. Though Western in origin, it is now celebrated in most parts of the world, thanks to globalization and proliferation of the electronic media.
While people may hold differing viewpoints on the manner or relevance of Valentine’s Day Celebrations to express our innermost feelings, we must admit that love is a universal and timeless concept.
A look at the origin and evolution of the celebration indicate that it is the combination of certain old Roman rituals and the legend surrounding a 3rd century Christian priest, now revered as St. Valentine.
Around 270 AD Rome was in decline. Emperor Claudius II wanted to raise a great army to face his enemies. But few wanted to leave their wives and families to join the army. The furious ruler decided to ban marriages so that more men would remain single and join the army.
However, Valentine, the priest, continued to perform marriage ceremonies in secret as he believed the royal decree was unjust. The Emperor soon discovered this and ordered the execution of the priest.
While in prison, before being executed on 14th February, Valentine was visited by a young girl, possibly the jailor’s blind daughter. He cured her miraculously. He wrote thanking her for her friendship and loyalty and signed it "from your Valentine".
Over the centuries, the observance of Valentine’s Day has accumulated a lot of interesting traditions and minutiae that add to its charm.
The first Valentine card is said to have been sent in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. He also wrote the oldest Valentine’s poem. This card and the poem are now preserved in the British Museum.
King Henry V, it appears, hired the services of writer John Lydgate to compose a Valentine’s letter. Printed cards appeared by the end of the 18th century. Valentine’s Day cards are the second bestselling card with a sale of one billion per year, next only to Christmas cards which has a tally of 2.6 billion. Interestingly, teachers receive the most Valentine's Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and even pets.
It was Richard Cadbury who produced the first box of chocolates for Valentine's Day in the late 1800's. Today an estimated 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year. In Japan, women are expected to give chocolate and other gifts to men on Valentine's Day. The men return the compliment on March 14th, observed as White Day.
Flowers, particularly red roses, are, of course, indispensible. The red rose symbolizes strong romantic feelings, being the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. 73% of people who buy flowers for the Day are men.
Love is a universal emotion that makes the world go around. The right dose of this human sentiment makes life sweet and livable. If observance of occasions like Valentine’s Day achieves this end without being overwhelmed by crass commercialization and distortions, that is welcome indeed.
The hunger for love is much
more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread. ~Mother Teresa
( Courtesy: Oman Observer Newspaper http://www.main.omanobserver.om/ )