Is Valentine’s Day really something to get so worked up about?
There have been reports making rounds on social media that the federal capital, on the instructions of Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar, had banned Valentine’s Day in Islamabad.
What followed was a mix of condemnation and congratulations from the two different sides of the coin; each one adamant that theirs was the right one. As a result, this reaction was followed by the Islamabad Deputy Commissioner denying that such an order had even taken place.
Valentine’s Day will go ahead with full furor like it does every year; each restaurant, gift, flower and chocolate shop milking and capitalising it to the nth level.
In India, conservative groups like Shiv Sena believe they are protesting against western values, which is what they think Valentine’s Day represents.
They protest by vandalism – breaking furniture in restaurants and by threatening every couple displaying affection with violence.
Last year the group that got the most anti-Valentine’s Day attention was the Hindu Mahasabha. They planned to marry off every single couple (and out them in front of their parents) who declared their love for one another, be it on social media or in person. That only resulted with the young ones becoming even more rebellious and determined to go through it. So when you oppose Valentine’s Day, you are on the same page as these nutters.
This year, however, even they have backed and claim that they will not harass anyone and there will be no moral policing. However, they did add that they would still burn valentine cards after stating that ‘these’ couples have the nature of animals. Any interference with them, like with animals, is pointless.
But what is Valentine’s Day really and is it really something to get so worked up about?
The story of it is shrouded with mystery in many different versions. One version centres on a priest known as Saint Valentine from Rome in the third century. The existing Emperor Claudius II decided that unmarried men made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied this ridiculous decree by performing marriages for young lovers in secret. When this was found out, Valentine was put to death and thus, in his memory, lovers started to profess their love for each other on this day.
Another version finds Valentine himself in jail. He fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and sent her a greeting signed “From your Valentine”. He was killed in this version too.
A third account comes from the annual ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, which took place on February 15th. The festival honored Juno (the Roman goddess of women and marriage), Pan (the god of nature), Faunus (the Roman god of agriculture), as well as the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
The priests would sacrifice a goat and make strips of the goat’s hide, dip it into blood and then slap women with the goat hide. This was believed to ward off evil spirits and increase fertility. Later on, all the women started to place their names in a big urn from which bachelors would choose a name and they would be paired for the year usually ending in marriage.
Eventually, Christians came to power and adapted these rituals and holidays in various ways to suit themselves.
People did not want to be beaten by hides anymore and instead they turned their focus on St Valentine, the patron of anyone wishing to marry. They brought in Cupid/Eros (the Roman God of desire/ Greek god of love) to the mix and Lupercalia was finally turned into St Valentine’s Day in 496 AD.
This goes to show that the day itself has no strong connection with religion. It is simply a day people choose to profess their love for one another. In 1415, the Duke of Orleans, while imprisoned in the Tower of London, wrote a poem for his wife to tell her he loves her. Henry V who was not adept in writing himself, hired a writer to compose a valentine note for Catherine of Valois.
Regardless of how it started, now it is just a day set aside for that one special person you wish to show that you love and care about. Buying flowers, chocolates, cards, writing little messages for someone is quite harmless.
Many argue that Valentine’s Days spoils our youth and culture, and is against religion. I think what spoils our youth and culture is child marriages, karo kari, honour killing, acid throwing, extremism, intolerance, terrorism, etc. There are so many other things much more vile that are ruining lives on a daily basis.
This is just a day for love and our country needs more of that.
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