Sapna K Sangra
Come February and the love begins blooming, you find it in the air, it’s in those Archies cards, it’s in those Teddies, it’s in those roses… Ooolala…I am talking about St. Valentine’s Day and it’s upon us again! It is amazing how these not so native traditions have slowly crept into our lives and have made a place within our cultural realm. No wonder, the major part of our year revolves around The Father’s Day, the Mother’s Day, The Grandparents Day etc. etc. So while we celebrate all these days with a lot of fanfare and gaiety, most of us perhaps know nothing about their origins and dynamics. So let’s go unfolding a bit of Valentine’s Day history and the emerging trends.
Peek into the History
So where did the St. Valentine’s Day come from? People have been interrogating this for a long time now. In 2017, The New York Times pondered the day’s origin in 1853 but called it “one of those mysterious historical or antiquarian problems which are doomed never to be solved.”
According to one popular tale, printed in The Boston Globe in 1965, St. Valentine was arrested after he defied an order by Emperor Claudius that forbade Roman soldiers from getting married. St. Valentine was later beheaded for his religious zeal, a death that Roman men decided to celebrate by pulling the names of eligible young ladies out of an urn. “This custom persisted for many years and eventually found its way into Germany and England,” The Globe reported.
Jack B. Oruch, an English professor at the University of Kansas who died in 2013, studied Valentine’s Day as part of his research into the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. He was convinced that Chaucer was the source of our modern ideas about St. Valentine.
In a 1981 academic article, “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February,” Oruch argued there was no documented evidence of a romantic tradition linked to St. Valentine before Chaucer wrote the poems “Parlement of Foules” and “The Complaint of Mars” in the late 14th century. Chaucer may have connected St. Valentine to romance because it was convenient: His saint’s day, on Feb. 14, took place at a time when Britons in the 14th century thought spring began, with birds starting to mate and plants beginning to bloom, Oruch wrote. So each year, around this time, we re-read the same myths in the articles and wonder at the growing popularity of it all year after year!
Thanks to Market Forces: Valentine’s Day is now a Big Deal
Amidst the protests from different quarters, more particularly from those who look at such festivities as threats to Indian culture and want to put the clock back, the day is now nearly established. From roses to chocolates and greeting cards to watches, a whole lot of stuff sees brisk demand on this day. That spells business for companies that manufacture these products. Economic Times for instance reported in February 2017 that brands such as Titan with a large share in the jewellery and watches business tends to see better volumes during the January-March quarter. Archies reports good top lines on a surge in demand for gifts and greeting cards. Nestle makes a lot of money from its chocolate portfolio.
There is no denying the fact that market forces have some where played an integral role in popularising this day. As they say, love that is kept inside will surely fade away. So you have got to express it and the expression must stand the test of time, it must match the prevailing standards. Thanks to the social media and Hindi films that give you the direction. So you can make it as big as you want, as dreamy as you want but all you need to have is your pockets full. No wonder, it’s a rich man’s world! The widening gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is pretty visible. The rich buys the heart shaped balloons for the sweethearts from the little children selling them on the streets. These children who ought to be in the schools are seen on the street either begging or selling is a reflection of the failure of our system to bring a desired change in our societies. So the irony of it all, of Valentine’s Day festivities or any other festival is apparent.
The Dynamics: Who can be your Valentine?
Most of what goes on the day revolves around the romantic partners but a sizable chunk is spent on friends, co-workers, classmates and even pets. So it’s no longer about just the opposites. One often comes across children greeting their parents, teachers and friends; teachers greeting their students, parents greeting their children, elderly being pampered; neighbours exchanging niceties; so much so the politicians are seen celebrating the day with the public. So it’s turning out to be any other festival and that reflects the changing perception and the inclusivity of it all irrespective of the gender and age.
Police and Protesters: Take a Chill Pill
Thanks to the Police and the protesters, the February fervour generally gets tensed in our country. While there are Brigades opposing the growing popularity of the Western values in the form of these festivals, the police are doubly charged to handle these protesters and patrolling the public parks, restaurants and coffee shops, cinema halls, every nook and corner surrounding the city colleges. One no longer raises an eye-brow reading about the police Lathicharge to handle the protesters and catching the youngsters. Such news often ends up making headlines of the papers following the Valentine’s Day. The fact that the essence of the day is undergoing rapid changes, it can give some relief to those who are up in arms opposing the day and maybe our cops can chill and avoid pouncing on those relaxing in the parks and coffee shops on the February 14!
Sapna K Sangra