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Home / Art and Culture / Valentine’s Day 2020: Myths and legends surrounding the day of love

Valentine’s Day 2020: Myths and legends surrounding the day of love

Valentine’s Week 2020: A day which sees red roses, chocolates, and stuffed toys bearing (often) melodramatic messages brightening up young souls as the winter gloom gives way to spring. It is not bereft of myths surrounding it.

art-and-culture Updated: Feb 09, 2020 12:17 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Delhi
A day which sees red roses, chocolates, and stuffed toys bearing (often) melodramatic messages brightening up young souls as the winter gloom gives way to spring. It is not bereft of myths surrounding it.
A day which sees red roses, chocolates, and stuffed toys bearing (often) melodramatic messages brightening up young souls as the winter gloom gives way to spring. It is not bereft of myths surrounding it.(UNSPLASH)

Some might say love is a myth, while others may think like Joan Baez that love is just a four letter word. But there is no denying the fact that Valentine’s Day, dedicated to the feelings of the heart, is perhaps one of the most widely celebrated occasions around the world. A day which sees red roses, chocolates, and stuffed toys bearing (often) melodramatic messages brightening up young souls as the winter gloom gives way to spring. It is not bereft of myths and legends surrounding it.

February 14

The Victorians may have popularised it, but the concept of Valentine’s Day is far older and traces its origins back to ancient Rome. The Romans celebrated a drunken festival called Lupercalia in mid-February, which involved hitting women with the hide of a sacrificial goat -- all in the hopes of raising their fertility. Not too romantic is it?

The creator of the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer spoke about the day in his 14th-century poem Parlement of Foules, which is considered to be one of the earliest references to Valentine’s Day.

Cupid

The rosy-cheeked Roman god of love is perhaps one of the most popular Valentine’s Day iconography. But the figure of Cupid is far from cherubic in classical mythology. In Roman myths, Cupid is defined by his seductive prowess and in later adaptations, he is shown as a malicious figure who exploits desire to draw people into the world of vice.

In Greek myths, Eros is the god love. He is one of the primordial gods who came into existence asexually; and wielded power over god and mortal alike.

Greeting cards

Yes, the Victorians popularised it by exchanging tokens of love and the tradition really took off with the improvement of postal services. The concept of a day dedicated to love was not started by them.

In 1797, a British publisher issued a book that contained sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories as well.

Saint Valentine

It is only normal that people associate St Valentine with Valentine’s Day, but did you know that the Catholic Church recognises at least three different saints with the same name, all of whom were martyred.

One of these legends surrounds Roman Emperor Claudius II. The ruler from third-century decided that single men made better soldiers than those with families and outlawed marriages. Valentine, who was a priest with the emperor, realised the injustice of the decree and defied the emperor to conduct secret marriages.

When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered him to be killed. Others believe that the person was Saint Valentine of Terni, a bishop who too was beheaded by Claudius II.

Single means miserable

Companionship has often been linked to long-lasting happiness. But is it true?

In the book Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living by Hebrew University researcher Elyakim Kislev, he says that singles are not a minority and are far better positioned to realise happiness and fulfillment in their lives.

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