Valentine’s Day, is a holiday observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine. It was first established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD,
The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards known as valentines.
Valentine’s Day: Poetic references
The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer Chaucer wrote:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
The earliest surviving valentine is a 15th-century Rondeau written by Charles, Duke of Orléans to his wife :
Je suis desja d’amour tanné
Ma tres doulce Valentinée…
Valentine’s Day is mentioned ruefully by Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600–1601):
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
John Donne used the legend of the marriage of the birds as the starting point for his Epithalamion celebrating the marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England, and Frederick V, Elector Palatine on Valentine’s Day:
Hayle Bishop Valentine whose day this is
All the Ayre is thy Diocese
And all the chirping Queristers
And other birds ar thy parishioners
Thou marryest every yeare
The Lyrick Lark, and the graue whispering Doue,
The Sparrow that neglects his life for loue,
The houshold bird with the redd stomacher
Thou makst the Blackbird speede as soone,
As doth the Goldfinch, or the Halcyon
The Husband Cock lookes out and soone is spedd
And meets his wife, which brings her feather-bed.
This day more cheerfully than ever shine
This day which might inflame thy selfe old Valentine.
—John Donne, Epithalamion Vpon Frederick Count Palatine and the Lady Elizabeth marryed on St. Valentines day
The verse Roses are red echoes conventions traceable as far back as Edmund Spenser’s epic The Faerie Queene (1590):
She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,
And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.
The modern Valentine’s Day poem can be found in the collection of English nursery rhymes Gammer Gurton’s Garland (1784):
The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.
Valentine’s Day in India
In India, in the antiquity, there was a tradition of adoring Kamadeva, the lord of love; exemplified by the erotic carvings in the Khajuraho sculptural monuments and by the writing of the Kamasutra treaty of lovemaking by Vatsayana. This tradition was lost around the Middle Ages, when Kamadeva was no longer celebrated, and public displays of sexual affections became frowned upon.
Around 1992 Valentine’s Day started catching up in India, with special TV and radio programs, and even love letter competitions. The economic liberalization also helped the Valentine card industry.
Hindu and Islamic traditionalists consider the holiday to be cultural contamination from the West, result of the globalization in India. Despite these obstacles, Valentine’s Day is becoming increasingly popular in India.