Valentine's Day is a festival that cherishes love and romance. The festival falls on February 14 every year and is celebrated in several countries across the world including US, UK, Canada, Japan, France, China and India. Though the festival commemorates the martyrdom of a Christian saint called St Valentine, the festival as it is celebrated today has little religious significance. In present times, Valentine's Day has assumed a secular and global flavor and is celebrated by people of all ages and races.
Valentine's Day is celebrated in a big way in several countries across the globe. Days before the festival markets wear a festive look. Shops selling gifts and cards are especially decorated with Valentine's Day symbols of roses, hearts, cupids and lovebirds. Aggressive marketing campaign by cards and gift marketers create hype for the festivals. On February 14, the spirit of love pervades the very atmosphere. One can find couples thronging parks, restaurants, malls and multiplexes holding hands and expressing love for each other.
Another noticeable factor in Valentine's Day celebration of present times is that the festival celebrates love in all its forms and is not just restricted to romantic love. People therefore exchange Valentine's Day greetings with their parents, teachers, siblings, friends, sweethearts or anyone special or close to them. The commonest way of expressing love on Valentine's Day is through exchanging cards, flowers and chocolates.
The romantic festival of Valentine's Day is said to have originated in pagan times in Rome when people celebrated annual fertility festival called Feast of Lupercalia in mid-February. A unique custom of the festival was the mating of young boys and girls for a year through a lottery system. Quite often the couple would fall in love and marry.
Strongly associated with the festival of Valentine's Day are the legends of three or more Saint Valentine of Rome. One of the most popular legends says, Valentine or Valentinus lived in Rome when the country was under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. It is said that Claudius engaged Rome in several unpopular and bloody campaigns. To maintain a strong army, Claudius continuously needed to recruit soldiers. But to his disappointment Claudius found that most men were unwilling to join army because of their strong attachment with their wives and their families. To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. A romantic at heart priest, Valentine, secretly arranged marriages of young boys and girls and defied this unjustified and callous order of Claudius. When the Emperor discovered this defiance, he put Valentine behind bars and he was finally executed on February 14, about 270 AD. For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.
By Middle Ages, Saint Valentine became the patron saint of love and lovers in England and France. In 498 AD, when Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to pagan celebration of Feast of Lupercalia, he declared that 14th February be celebrated as St Valentine's Day.
Some scholars however, say, romance was linked with Valentine's Day because of the popular belief in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds began to start looking for their mate from 14th February.
One of the most important customs of Valentine's Day festival is the exchange of love notes called ‘Valentines' by lovers. The tradition is said to have initiated in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans who sent the first known Valentine Day card to his wife from prison. In present times, Valentine's Day is the second biggest Valentine's Day card-giving holiday after Christmas. There is also the tradition of gifting flowers, chocolates besides other gifts of love on Valentine's Day as an expression of love.
Going on a date with one's Valentine is another popular tradition of Valentine's Day festival. Candle light dinners or evening together in a park are an all-time favorite dating idea in present times.
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