Many feasts are celebrated today without actually knowing the history of their origin, but for people who celebrate it, the implication is by far more important. Such is the case with Valentine’s Day, when lovers express their love to each other; they spend quality time in each other’s company and shower each other with gifts.
Valentine’s Day is named after Saint Valentine, also called the “Sweetheart Saint”. A legend reveals that Saint Valentine lived in the third century in Rome and served as a priest. The Emperor of Rome had decided that single men made better soldiers and hence young men were not permitted to marry. St. Valentine defied the emperor and secretly performed marriages for young lovers. He paid for his actions with his life and while serving a prison sentence before his death fell in love with a blind girl. Valentine restored her sight and on his farewell message before he died, he wrote “from your Valentine” which is a popular message on many Valentine cards to this day.
The heart is where the emotion of a human being lies, and on Valentine’s Day there are hearts on cards, balloons, gifts, and on anything associated with it. The importance of the heart comes from Cupid, who is the Roman god for passion and playful love. His mother is Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Cupid means ‘desire’ and his picture appears everywhere as a cute boy who has wings. He has a bow and arrow with which he pierces the hearts of couples so that they fall in love. According to ancient beliefs, Cupid pierced the heart of his lover Psyche with an arrow and made a hole in her heart. This inspired her forever with romantic love and that is why the arrow signifies everlasting love.
The date associated with Valentine’s Day may be the day that Saint Valentine was executed, though some believe that this date is associated with an ancient pagan ceremony. So when the Christian church came into power the pagan rite was converted into a feast day.
In the 17th and 18th century, Valentine’s Day was celebrated in a small way when friends and lovers exchanged small gifts or handwritten notes. All social classes celebrated this feast in the name of love. But in the 19th century, the celebration gained commercialism and printed greeting cards took over from handwritten notes. The printing technology made it possible to make ready-made cards with beautiful designs and colours and lovers found it an ideal way to express their emotions.
Though most celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Western world without knowing its history, its association with the concept of romantic love in not unknown. The noble ideas of love are everlasting, and it is important to understand it in a fuller and meaningful notion for a stable structure of the society. History merely gives the cause of this understanding and celebration, it is for humanity to preserve and pursue its ideals.