Dating apps keep the romance momentum going round the year but Valentine’s Day is still that special day dedicated to love
Bumble, Tinder or OkCupid–even as dating sites and apps are widely used to network and find partners, love still has a day of the year devoted exclusively to it: Valentine’s Day. Celebrated on February 14 across the world, this is the day that most wait for to express their deepest emotions. Why? Some call it an occasion, others a saintly tradition, and others just join in the fun, even if love is elusive.
Talking about its popularity, lawyer and blogger Bedabrata Chakraborty recounts that V-Day gained momentum in India via Archies offering lovey dovey greeting cards, way back in the early 1990s. “My younger sister used to look forward to the gifts she would get. But my mother would make her return all of them,” he laughs. “In Kolkata, I see more young ones coming together on Saraswati Puja, which heralds the coming of spring.”
For Puja Kumari, cultural advisor with the Embassy of Mexico in India, “It’s the day of love and not just love between partners, husband and wife. I celebrate it with my close friends over lunch and a good movie. Yash Raj movies always inspired me to celebrate love.”
Back in time
Even though it’s among the most popular global days, its origins are mysterious. Who is St Valentine’s and how did he become the angel of love? The Catholic Church recognises three martyr saints named Valentine or Valentinus. A legend goes that Valentine was a third century Roman priest, who got young lovers married in secret. Emperor Claudius II had put into motion a law under which young men were not allowed to get married as single men made better soldiers. When the Emperor discovered that Valentine had disobeyed him, he was put to death.
Another story goes that Valentine was imprisoned for helping Christians escape from the Roman prisons. He fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and sent her a letter ending with ‘your Valentine’. While none of the stories can be authenticated, he did become a symbol of heroism and romance in England and France in the middle ages.
Even the day of celebration is shrouded in mystery. Some say it was the day of Valentine’s burial, around 270 AD. Others say it was the church’s effort to turn the pagan festival of Lupercalia into a Christian celebration. Lupercalia was dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, and ides of February or February 15 was the day of fertility.
The Luperci, an order of Roman priests would assemble at the sacred cave where Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, had been cared for by a she-wolf as infants. A goat and dog were sacrificed for fertility and purification respectively. The goat’s hide was then cut into strips and dipped in the sacred blood. The priests would then go around slapping the women and crops with these strips to make them fertile. In the evening, young girls would put their names in a big urn. The single men would choose a name to pair with and often get married to. But Lupercalia was lost in the 5th century as Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.
Origins of the day of love might be unclear, but nature’s love is clear. Spring is the time when flowers bloom and most birds mate. In England and France of the Middle Ages, February 14 was considered to be the beginning of the mating season for birds. Thus, it was the perfect day for romance. In fact, Geoffrey Chaucer has mentioned this in Parlement of Foules (1382): “For this was on seynt Volantynys day/ Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”
While love messages and gifts were probably exchanged over time, it was only in 1400 that the greetings came about. The oldest known is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. Captured in the Battle of Agincourt, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. This greeting is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London. King Henry V also hired a writer, John Lydgate, to write a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
“It’s a special day for young adults,” says graphic designer and blogger Sundeep Bhatia. Echoing similar sentiments, PR professional Meera says, “We don’t celebrate it loudly but it’s an occasion to go out for a nice, quiet dinner.”
Many are sceptical about this, but even then they get caught in the trap of love. “Even though it’s a day promoted by card companies, it does help in long distance relationships. I write a poem for my girl and send her something useful to show love and appreciation,” says Manek, a content writer. For Archana Kedia, who manages a co-working space, it’s just another day, “if you love someone, you’ll make every day a Valentine’s Day for them”.
The tradition of gifting cards, chocolates, confectionary comes down from Europe. But the rise in current times can be credited to American Esther A. Howland (1828–1904). Known as the mother of Valentine, she created greetings with lace, ribbons and colourful pictures. Story goes that at the age of 19, she got a valentine from a business associate of her father’s who ran the largest book and stationery store in Worcester, Massachusetts.
This came from Europe and had a fine lace border and cut out ornate flowers. In the centre lay a pale green envelope with a note and a Valentine verse. Struck by this, she began work on a small budget and then scaled it up over the years, creating many unique designs. She introduced lace layering, use of thin coloured paper, 3D accordion effects and a bouquet in which flowers would reveal a verse when pulled by a string. Most of these beautiful greetings can be found today also. Producer at a news channel, Anjali Nair, says she likes the greetings more as her husband’s birthday is also on the same day, “time for double celebrations”.
Whatever its origins, Valentine’s Day and the inspirations that come from it don’t seem to be losing popularity.
In the words of analyst Rohan Deshmane, “Valentine’s Day is when my hidden romantic soul ignites and I pen down my thoughts for my love and then recite them to her over a candlelight dinner.”
• Lovable menus at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa, Delhi Enjoy a romantic ‘Special Sit Down’ lovable menu at Chutney, Bar + Tandoor or relish exotic ‘Be My Valentine Dinner Buffet’ at Zing. Bite into delectable dishes such as Made For Each Other (Baby lamb chops pan-fried and served with rose merry jus), Gaeng Kieow Waan (Tiger prawns simmered in green curry along with sweet basil), Paneer Dilkush (Cottage cheese roulade in dill flavored tomato gravy) and more from Chutney. Or indulge in Pumpkin and Walnut Chemistry (Roasted pumpkin and walnut soup flavoured with thyme), Seafood Affair (Seafood broth flavoured with East Asian herbs), Seductive (Prawn satay with peanut sauce), Love Birds (Smoked chicken and turkey with prunes), etc from Zing.
There are some Valentine’s Special desserts at Zing GourMET Shop.
Price: Chutney, Bar + Tandoor, Rs 6,000 AI per couple, includes degustation menu with bottle of Still Wine Time: 19:00 to 00:00 hrs Zing, Rs 6,000 AI per couple, Dinner Buffet with bottle of Wine and Pralines Time: 19:00 to 00:45 hrs Zing GourMET Shop, Rs 300-2,000 Time: 10:00 to 22:00 hrs
• Under the skies at Hilton Garden Inn, Gurgaon Vibe, the sky bar, has a special dinner with live DJ. There are live food counters with sushi, dim sums, and more. Price: Rs 4,999 all inclusive (food and alcoholic drinks) per couple or Rs 5,999 all inclusive with sparkling wine • Dine in style at the Roseate Hotels and Resorts Five-course dinner with wine (set menu) at DEL, world cuisine bistro Price: Rs 3,600 AI Time: 7:00–11:00 pm Five-course dinner at Chi Ni (set menu), curated by Chef Ban Price: Rs 5,000++ with a glass of bubbly (for a couple) Time: 7:00-11:30 pm • Fall in love again at Taj Palace, New Delhi Feast on a dinner buffet at Capital Kitchen on Indian, Asian and European dishes, along with a glass of sparkling rosé or bottomless premium beverages. Timings: 19:00 to 23:00 hrs Price: Rs 2,950 (inclusive of taxes per person) with a glass of sparkling rosé Rs 4,250 (inclusive of taxes per person) with unlimited select beverages Rekindle your love at Orient Express over a five-course degustation menu along with live piano. Timings: 19:00 to 23:00 hrs Price: Rs 9,500 (inclusive of taxes per person) with a glass of bubbly • Radisson Blu MBD Hotel Noida has a special package for Prive Classic rooms. This includes a bottle of wine on arrival, romantic Dinner Buffet at SXVIII, all day brasserie, 15% discount in Espace (the spa) and more.
• Body, mind, spirit: Head to Naad, the wellness centre in Sonipat and enjoy some therapeutic times to foster strong relationships. Besides the regular therapies, there is a new ‘Healing Series’ which comprises exclusive sessions and workshops conducted by fashionista and energy healer Ashtar Tashi. These help achieve physical, emotional and spiritual balance with loved ones. Woven in with the existing packages, there is a 90-minute introductory session and hour-long therapy sessions. Website: https://naadwellness.com/
• Celebrate love: Roseate Hotels and Resorts have special Valentine packages. The Deluxe and Premier room packages include a welcome drink, Valentine amenities, 15% discount on food & soft beverages and spa services, evening cookery session for couples (Toss it with Chef), yoga session and breakfast for two. Website: https://www.roseatehotels.com/