Feb 12, 2018

The story of Valentine’s Day and how it is celebrated


A brief history


February 14 is a special day for people all across the world. Valentine’s Day or Saint Valentine’s Day (as it is known in some places) is a day specially earmarked to celebrate love and togetherness. On this day, couples all across the world express their love and affection for each other via the romantic gestures and gifts like candy and flowers.


However, the story of the origin of this day is a mystery to most, with some historians attributing it to Roman history and others to the Catholic church. The most popular legend states that Valentine was a simple priest who served under Emperor Claudius II in the third century. The Emperor was of the belief that single men made for fiercer soldiers and thus outlawed marriage. The Priest however, was unconvinced, and believed in the power of togetherness and thus continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When the Emperor discovered what Valentine had been doing, he regarded it as treason and executed the Priest.



Another tale talks of a young Priest who was executed by the Roman Empire for trying to help Christian prisoners escape their dark dungeons. Yet another legend speaks about a Priest named Valentine who fell in love with a Jailer's daughter and wrote her letters which he signed, ‘... from your Valentine’, which is why the expression is still used today.



Some believe that Valentine’s Day is indeed celebrated in February only to commemorate the anniversary of Saint Valentine’s death, whoever that Saint may be. Yet others believe that it is a celebration of the Pagan festival of Luperccalia, which was a fertility festival celebrating Faunus, Romulus and Remus, the Roman god of Agriculture and the founders of Rome, respectively.


What we do know for certain is that the first recorded instance of a Valentine’s Day greeting still in existence today is a poem written by Charles, the Duke of Orleans, in 1415, written whilst he was still imprisoned in the Tower of London.


Chinese Valentine’s Day  




The story of Chinese Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, is much clearer. Known as the 7th Goddess Day or Tsat-je, the festival falls on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Its origin revolves around the love story of an orphaned cowherd and the 7th daughter of the Emperor of Heaven.



As the tale goes, the orphaned cowherd has nothing but an Ox to his name. However, the Ox is an immortal from heaven. One specific day, the Ox asks the cowherd to visit a brook if he wants to find love. The cowherd does so and comes across the 7 daughters of the Emperor who have visited to brook to have a bath. He is immediately enchanted by the 7th and youngest daughter, and decides to hide her clothes. She discovers the mischief and the two proceed to fall in love. They get married and their union results in two lovely children. The Ox eventually grows old and dies, asking the cowherd to preserve his hide before he does so.


Their happiness is however short-lived, as the Emperor eventually wants his daughter back. When the Grandmother comes to collect the Princess, the cowherd slips on the Ox’s magic hide, collects his two children in a basket and follows them up to heaven. There he is spotted and banned from heaven. He’s only allowed to meet his wife once a year... on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar. The magpies of heaven, who are moved by their love, create a bridge every day on this day of the year so that the two lovers can meet.


Chinese tradition regarding this day heavily revolves around women, especially younger women. The customary thing to do is for them to make a wish when they see the Magpies’ bridge, a combination of three bright stars that form a straight line in summer. These wishes could involve betterment of self, a wish for a good man or for healthy children.



People also deem the 7th Goddess as the Goddess of Fruit. Thus a lot of Chinese women turn vegetarian a day before the festival and offer the Goddess fruit, tea, wine and peanuts. They pray to the Goddess and then consume the offering, after which they have to thread 7 needles under the moonlight. Only then will the wish they made come true.


Other traditions on the day include preparing offerings for the Magpies so that they may have their fill so as to build the bridge, leaving an empty bowl in the courtyard so that it may collect dew, and killing cocks so that no sounds disturb the heavenly couple when they meet in the morning.


Dating and marriage customs around the world



While February 14th is synonymous with love, caring and togetherness, it is celebrated in very different ways around the world. Each region has its own charming courting customs and traditions, some weird and some cute! Not all of these, of course, are restricted to mid-February. Take for example the Wife-carrying World Championships which take place in the village of Sonkarjavi, Finland, wherein competitors sling their partners over their shoulder and take part in a variety of physical challenges. The reward for finishing first? Their partner’s weight in beer.


Fiji is home to an even more grueling tradition! The island nation has a tradition whereby a potential groom must present his father in law with a tabua (whale’s tooth) when asking for a his daughter’s hand in marriage. This is only possible to do after diving for several hours close to the ocean bed to collect a tabua.



There are several other not-so-normal customs around the world, with brides being kidnapped before marriage (although this was made illegal in 1990) in Kyrgyztan and couples attaching their padlocks to the Ponte Milvio in Rome to stay together forever. There is even a toilet tradition in Borneo whereby after the day of their marriage, newlyweds are not allowed to leave their own house – not even to use the bathroom!


With love on everyone’s mind, let’s embrace each other and ourselves. Mozaic Club helps bring together people, as friends (and potentially as more!), on a daily basis. We help to build relationships to last a lifetime.



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