DR. RATAN BHATTACHARJEE

“Love is not love which alters when alterations find.” Shakespeare told it in the sonnets and through the lips of Hamlet he reconfirmed “Doubt thou the stars are fire;/Doubt that the sun doth move;/Doubt truth to be a liar;/But never doubt I love.” But the way the world is focusing on love every February 14 with the exchange of candy, flowers and gifts love is being lost in the labyrinth of excessive commercialism. True love is exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. “In a world full of temporary things the beloved person can give a perpetual feeling.- this seems to be the idea besides all expressions of Valentine’s love.

For a short time we may go back to the history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome.

When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Some claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn.

The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine Day is now a global craze in all sorts of commercialism beginning with gift cards and ending with jewelry. In going to search for gifts, one is losing the zest for love because love is not a one-day wonder. It is a ritual to celebrate the season of love with Chocolate or a cake. Cake has a special place in Valentine festivity- Chocolate-dipped bacon lollipops, chocolate tea, chocolate sugar, and chocolate salt, Some lovers enjoy Ice skating under the stars Lovers now take it for granted that they can make their loved one happy with a new piece of jewelry – gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires Once true love was expressed by a rose or such a flower.

But now it seems that the world is bored about the flowers and the stuffed teddy bears, the candy hearts and the drugstore aisles lined with pink and red Hallmark cards replaced all those simple things such is conveyed through a poem of Blake: “My luv’s a red red rose.” Now heightened expectations of those who are young and in love and anxiety for a diamond-studded proposal is all the more important.

Many assume that Geoffrey Chaucer is somehow responsible for Valentine’s Day in England nay Europe. Exactly how he is responsible for it, nothing is more known than one poem written by Chaucer The Parliament of Fowl for February 14 and many ends up with claims ranging from “Chaucer invented Valentine’s Day,” to “Chaucer invented St. Valentine,” to “Chaucer wrote the first Valentine’. Love birds remain a popular symbol of Valentine’s Day even now, and for this, we can thank Chaucer. Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, an enormous collection of linked stories in poetry and prose. But his 700-line poem “Parlement of Foules” has the special distinction of being the first surviving record of a connection between Valentine’s Day and romantic love.

Chaucer probably composed the poem in 1381–82. At the time, he was a member of the court of King Richard II, holding an important bureaucratic position in London. The date suggests that Chaucer wrote “Parelment of Foules” to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of the English king to Princess Anne of Bohemia. The poem follows the dream of the narrator, where he walks through Venus’s temple and discovers a meeting of birds where they all choose their mates. This is where the mention of St. Valentine’s Day appears. For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,/When every bird cometh there to choose his mate. The poem also contains a familiar Valentine’s image, Cupid with his arrows: Under a tree, beside a well, I saw /Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;/And at his feet, his bow already lay. When Chaucer mentions St. Valentine’s Day, is he referring specifically to February 14?

But all over the world too much commercialism on the occasion of Valentine’s Day compels the lovers to join Anti Valentine Campaign calling St.Valentine the patron of bad gifts To combat the hype of commercialism and rituals one Anti-Valentine Day supporter wrote “You can love someone any day of your life. Why on one special day with so much fanfare?”. In going to dissociate money from love, C Deborah Carr, a sociologist at Rutgers University who studies relationships, understands why people might resent Valentine’s Day excesses. The whole arrangement of Valentine’s celebrations all over the world conspires to make people feel that they’re not living up to this standard of lovely romance.

Even those in relationships often feel “disappointed they are not feted properly. In the Christian and non-Muslim countries, there is no less a strong wave of Anti-Valentine. Valentine’s day celebration actually creates more problems in relationships than any good that it does. For people who are part of a couple, it can be a cauldron of unmet expectations and an excuse to not be sincerely romantic the other 364 days of the year and it becomes more of a competition. Really, we are somehow pressured in the commercials. The idea of walking around in stores is hanging over them like an albatross from our neck. Paul Valery once said: “Love is being stupid together.” This is never more felt than it is on Valentine’s Day all over the globe.

Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee is an Academician and poet. He can be reached at profratanbhattacharjee@gmail.com

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