This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.

           Ah,  here is 14 February ! Another  Valentine's day for the year 2008.  The world celebrates this day by sending cards, flowers and gifts to their lovers.


           But I wonder how many of us know the history behind this great day.  The modern  "Valentine's day" owes its origin to a feast called ‘Lupercalia' which used to be  celebrated in Rome years ago every 15 February. In ancient days, Rome and the area around it  was infested  with  ferocious wolves, who naturally hunted for human beings if they couldn't find any other worthwhile prey in the forests.  So, the Romans prayed to Lupercalia, a Roman god, to keep the wolves away.  


          As years passed by, these unwelcome animals retreated deep into the forests leaving the human beings in perfect peace. And as a result,  Lupercalia became a festival day, a spring festival day. 


         On the eve of the Lupercalia day, (14 Feb),  young  girls used to drop their names, written on small slips of paper into a box. Young men drew out the chits and the girl concerned  became his sweetheart for that  year.  The box itself was called ‘Valentine box' and thus the  day (14 Feb)  came to be known as  "Valentine's day." Sweethearts chosen by this method were known as ‘Valentines' of the young men.


         [If finding a girl friend  or boy friend could be as easy as that, we must re-start this technology in all cities in the current century. Young men and women,  please take note]


         There perhaps is another reason for naming this day the ‘Valentine's day'. In the book called  Books of Martyrs, it is seen that three saints named ‘Valentine' had been killed on 14 Feb. One of them was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II.  The Emperor had ordered that no soldier should get married because he wanted their entire attention  on the battle front  and not on their home front.


          A benevolent priest by the name  Valentine refused to observe this order and  got young men married off secretly.  When Claudius came to know of it, he had Valentine arrested and  imprisoned. Within days, he was beheaded on 14 Feb.


          Another Valentine was  the bishop of  Interamna (now Terni). This bishop was executed on 14 Feb because he refused to worship pagan gods.


           Very little is known about the third Valentine except that he was martyred in Africa on 14 Feb.


          These martyrs were acknowledged as saints after their death.  With the spread of Christianity,  the priests changed the day of the spring festival from February 15, to  14.  And the day now honours St.Valentine instead of Lupercalia. And St Valentine has become the patron saint of  young  lovers.


        The message of the  Valentine's day is: love, friendship, loyalty and understanding between lovers.


        Now my footnote is this:  Could a wife be  called the husband's  Valentine?

I did hail my wife by that name and she retorted, "Have you forgotten my real name or what? Who is  this female called Valentine anyway? What have you to do with her?" She shook her head in disgust.  "And that too at this age of yours….….  ?"  She continued her titter for several seconds waving an index finger  disapprovingly.