Writing love letters on Valentine’s Day | Sunday Observer

Writing love letters on Valentine’s Day

Writing love letters may appear to be an old-fashioned pursuit in modern times. However, love letters have their own plus points. On Valentine’s Day which dawns on February 14, let’s get into the rhythm of writing love letters even if you have never written them before.

Many decades ago, when I was a callow youth living in a malaria-infested area in a remote part of the South, I wrote my first love letter to a village girl. On a hot afternoon I was sitting under a kumbuk tree by the river where village damsels used to bathe. I was particularly looking at a doe-eyed pretty girl with long hair. Even after returning to my humble abode, I could not get her out of my mind. I had to do something to give vent to my pent-up feelings.

I tore a few pages from an exercise book and poured all my feelings onto it. I must have written about three or four pages within a short span of time. On the following day, I sent it to her through a trustworthy friend. I waited anxiously for a reply, but she never cared to do so. Later, I came to know that she was happy to have received my love letter. Being an innocent girl she had put my letter among her collection of New Year greeting cards, birthday cards and Vesak cards.

Love letter

Her reaction irked me. One day, I told her, “It’s a love letter. You shouldn’t have put it among other greeting cards.” I expected her to fold it neatly and hide it somewhere, but she did not do so.

On this Valentine’s Day we should remember that love letters are not greeting cards. Maybe, there are people who have never written love letters. Whatever it is, love letters have their own rhythm. You cannot write a love letter in two or three paragraphs. The length of the letter matters a lot.

If you wish to write about the day you first met your girl or boy, you have to recreate the scene in so many words. You have to tell a story the recipient would read. You can narrate an incident where he or she did not know you were watching him or her. A good love letter is like a painting. Give all the details vividly. There is always a risk of writing and sending love letters. That is, your letter may reach the wrong person!

I wrote this short prologue as we are fast approaching Valentine’s Day which will be celebrated on February 14. Historically, Saint Valentine’s Day is treated as a holiday honouring lovers. Today, the day is celebrated by the custom of sending greeting cards or gifts to your loved ones to express love and affection. The holiday probably derives from the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalis which was celebrated on February 15. The festival gradually became associated with the feast day (February 14) of two Roman martyrs, both named St. Valentine, who lived in the 3rd century. St. Valentine has traditionally been regarded as the patron saint of lovers.

Emperor Claudius II

During the reign of Emperor Claudius II young men and women did not mix together as in modern times. On the eve of the feast of Lupercalis the names of Roman girls written on slips of paper were placed in jars. Young men were expected to draw a name from them. Thereafter, they became partners during the festival. Sometimes, their relationships lasted throughout the year. Some of them fell in love with each other and got married.

During Claudius’s reign Rome was dragged into many wars with neighbouring countries. The Emperor found it difficult to attract men to join the army as they were living with their loved ones. To get over the problem Claudius banned marriages and engagements in Rome. At that time, Valentine was a priest in Rome. With the help of St. Marius he secretly officiated at marriage ceremonies. Valentine’s activities provoked the Emperor. Eventually, Valentine was arrested and produced before the Prefect of Rome. The judge condemned him to death by beating him with clubs. Later Valentine’s head was cut off.

The priests of the early Christian Church in Rome endeavoured to do away with pagan practices of holding feasts in February in honour of a heathen God. They substituted Christian saints for heathen Gods. When the feast of Lupercalis was held on February 15, Christian priests started celebrating St. Valentine’s Day on February 14.

Charles Stuart Calverley (1831-1884) was one of the few poets who penned a poem dedicated to February 14:

“Ere the morn the East has crimsoned,

When the stars are twinkling there

(As they did in Watts’ hymns, and

Made him wonder what they were)

When the forest-nymphs are

beading

Fern and flower with silvery dew

My infallible proceeding

Is to wake, and think of you.”

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