Love is in the air…!
Posted on February 14th, 2011

Dr.Tilak Fernando

“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable”!

When Henry Ward Beecher wrote the above two lines probably he was not contemplating on a Valentine’s Day. Nowadays, February 14 has become characteristic of the Valentine’s Day which is closely associated with mutual exchange of love notes in the form of greeting cards. This celebrated day in February is regarded as the day of the Cupid, the child-like winged deity, the son of Venus the Roman goddess of love.

Valentine symbols

The real nature of love is of course far harder to pin down than anything we can learn out of two romantic lines. Love is one of those phenomena which cannot be analysed under a microscope. We may use all the talents and charms in the world and spend hours on end pondering over the philosophical nature of this magic human reaction, yet fail to agree upon, the reason being that every individual’s experience of love and ways of showing it indeed is unique.

In Greek mythology, Cupid is known as Aphrodite’s son Eros. The modern Valentine symbols include the red rose and the red coloured heart-shaped outline with the figure of Cupid. There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine’s Day. Some experts say that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A D, the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer’s daughter, who had become his friend and signed it as, “from Your Valentine”. Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A D Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine.

According to legend again, on February 14, all the young women in the city used to place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. It was also commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February (Valentine’s Day) should be a day for romance.

Love messages

The oldest known Valentine greeting was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The friendly gesture, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it was believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine message to Catherine of Valois.

Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around 17th Century in Britain. By the middle of the 18th Century, it became common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. With the advancement of printing technology, original handwritten letters, which once directed one’s feelings and emotions, were replaced by printed cards by the end of the century.

In the 1840s, Esther A Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentine cards in America. Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, marked by sending cards, flowers, simple gifts and often ending the day with a small gathering or a formal dance.

Mythical daydreams

Seemingly, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day has become a mega commercial hype at present with special Valentine dances throughout the cities and one billion valentine cards exchange hands on a single day throughout the world making just the perfect excuse to make lots of people spend even more money to avoid feeling disappointed, inadequate or insecure whilst enabling greeting card producers, stationery outlets and postal services become richer.

Coming down to nitty-gritty no one can deny the fact that we all enjoy an overdose of sycophancy from time to time and indulge in mythical daydreams. We may try to be jolly on this special day being showered with romantic cards, bouquets of red roses, a single rose, boxes of chocolate with writings on them such as “All because the lady loves…” Some become lavish and spend a fortune on eating out at star hotels while getting drunk like fish with ‘gal’, ‘pol’, wine or whiskey. For a different kind of valentine, it could yet be another occasion to hit a dance floor and enjoy a bit of pelvic thrust in romantic dim light and say it is just what the cupid ordered!

I feel sorry for those who are eager to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with almost as much entrepreneurial vigour as the big December day on the calendar. Sending valentine day cards could at times be illuminating proof flashing right in the recipient’s face as the anonymous red heart in the card with no clues of the sender! Doesn’t it then become a big money-making con wrapped up in an expensive shiny paper?

But let’s face it, if you are forced to rely on one day of the year alone to feel that ‘love is in the air’ and ‘happily ever after’ you could be far way off, just yet! Haven’t we all heard the idiom, ‘to love another, one has to love oneself’? In such a hypothesis, wouldn’t it be nicer then to offer a little bit of love in an unexpected direction this year and send a card to your own address!

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