Regardless of differences in the understanding of evolutionary theory, the fact is that things, ideas, civilisations, cultures and even nature do evolve and develop. Often these may evolve to such an extent that one may hardly find any resemblance to the object’s original shape. One such example, almost like the one of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus), is today’s celebration around the world — of Valentine’s Day. It is not a surprise then to observe that the modern Valentine Day’s celebrations have nothing to do with what our gentle friend, St. Valentine, had envisaged.
Today’s celebrations are named after St. Valentine, a Catholic priest who lived in Rome in the 3rd century. There are many stories about St. Valentine and over time these stories kept evolving until it took its present shape.
The then Roman Emperor Claudius II believed that for the country’s soldiers to remain completely devoted to their motherland, they should remain single. So he passed a law preventing the soldiers from marrying. The holy priest Valentine, having devoted his life to serve God and humanity, found this law quite inhuman. He thus devised a way to marry off these soldiers in secret, giving birth to his reputation of being a patron of married love.
Eventually Valentine was found out and jailed for his crimes against the Emperor. While imprisoned, Valentine cared for his fellow prisoners and also his jailor’s blind daughter. Legend has it that Valentine cured the girl’s blindness and that his final act before being executed was to write her an affectionate message signed “from your Valentine”. He was executed on February 14 in the year 270. It wasn’t until more than 200 years later that February 14 was proclaimed St. Valentine’s Day. By this time Rome had become Christian and the then Pope proclaimed that day as St. Valentine’s Day giving him a place on the Catholic Calendar of Saints.
While Valentine’s Day is celebrated in most countries, different cultures have developed their own traditions for this festival. In some parts of the world Valentine’s Day is observed as a day for expressing love between family members and friends, rather than that among romantic couples. Some traditions include leaving lollies and gifts for children and others include acts of appreciation between friends.
Whatever turn Valentine’s Day practices might have taken, it is good to remember the heart of St. Valentine. The aim of his initiative was to help soldiers establish a happy family. For, it is the family where one gains one’s first experiences of love and being loved. It is in the family that our capacity to love flowers and reaches its zenith. Despite the evolution of Valentine’s Day celebrations in the last 1,600 years, would it not be worthwhile to let our genuine love evolve after the heart of St. Valentine’s?