Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day By Subajana Jeyaseelan- Lecturer in English –Vavuniya Campus-University of Jaffna

Usually, Sri Lankan people, who are more materialistic, are fond of celebrating almost all the functions and festivals. Only a few are interested and curious in finding the reasons behind the functions, others blindly celebrate them for fun. Likewise, year after year our younger generation celebrate Valentine’s Day with sharing sweets, having parties and exchanging gifts between loved ones and so on, in the name of St Valentine, but the pitiable thing is most of the people do not know who is this Valentine? Why was it named as a ‘Valentine’s Day’?
Valentine’s Day, celebrated grandly all over the world, falls on the month of February every year. Hence, February is considered as a month of romance. There are many stories told in relation with Valentine’s Day. But, the history of Valentine’s Day and its patron saint are shrouded in mystery. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?
There are varying opinions revealed to the origin of Valentine’s Day though it’s really a fascinating story.
There was a saint; he lived in Rome during the third century, named St Valentine. In fact, it was long, long years ago! During that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. Not only the Saint Valentine didn’t like Emperor Claudius, but a lot of people had the same feelings.
Claudius wanted to have a big army. He expected men to join voluntarily. Many men disliked joining and going to battle field as they had the family responsibilities and they didn’t want to leave their wives and children. Under the rule of Emperor Claudius, Rome was involved in many blood-spattered incidents and ostracized campaigns. The heartless Claudius was having a tough time in getting soldiers to join his military leagues. As a result, not many a man signed up. This made Claudius furious. So, he had a crazy idea. He thought if men were not married, they wouldn’t mind in joining in army. Therefore, Claudius planned and decided not to allow men getting married. Young people thought that his new rule was so cruel. The Saint Valentine also thought that it was ridiculous and absurd not to support the law as well as the Emperor. Valentine being a priest, one of his favorite duties was to make couples’ hands joining in marriage. Even after Emperor Claudius implemented his law, he continued performing marriage ceremonies in secret. It was quite embarrassing and thrilling. No one could imagine the situation indeed; the wedding ceremony took place in a small candle lit room with only bride, bridegroom and the saint, who was murmuring the holy words of the ceremony, giving the ears all the while for the steps of soldiers. This was continuing day in and out. One unfortunate night while doing the wedding rites, they heard footsteps. It was scary! Luckily the couple that he was marrying escaped in time, but he was caught. The saint was thrown into jail and he was sentenced to death. But, the saint tried to stay cheerfully. There, to his surprise, wonderful things happened. Many young people thronged to jail to see him. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. Even they wanted the saint to know that they, too, believed in love.
One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit the saint in the cell. Sometimes, they would sit and talk for hours. She helped the saint to keep his spirits up. She agreed that he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. On the day he was to die, he left his friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, "Love from your Valentine."
He believes that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember. In fact, it was the day of his death, but people most importantly think about love and friendship. And when people think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how St Valentine tried to pursue the way of love, and they are speechless because everyone knows that love cannot be beaten!


D.N. Aloysius

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