Of myths, legends, mystery and the perfect love story.
The love story in the Chinese folklore; of the celestial bodies Altair and Vega that bore Qixi and Tanabata Festival transcends that of Valentine’s. However, the exact origin and how ‘the lovers’ day came to be associated with February 14 therefore Valentine’s Day is shrouded in the mystery, myths and legends of who St. Valentine was. But between Valentine’s-celebrating the martyr or whatever traditions and the Qixi, celebrated in the seventh months, which qualifies to be the appropriate lovers’ day?
Many couples and those in relationships are looking forward to the annual revelries that come in the middle of February and as it were, this year is no different. While some will spend hundreds to millions of whatever currencies as a show of love, or so related to appreciation of one’s fondness for another, others will choose to be modest with candle lit dinners at home and some just candy and flowers. Whichever way you choose to enjoy Valentine’s Day depends on one’s desires, but have you ever wondered why the festival comes in the month of February?
There is a number of myths that explain the festival that to some, has bears pagan association and to others Christian origins. According to history.com some people believe that the day marks the martyr of St. Valentine which may have occurred around AD 270. Still, this does not exactly point out to which Valentine. “The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred,” the History website contends.
Legend has it that Valentine was a priest who secretly joined young couples in holy matrimony against the decree of Emperor Claudius II who believed that unmarried soldiers fought better than those in marriage. Therefore, when Valentine was caught, the emperor decreed a death penalty hence the love story was born. Another legend has it that Valentine was a priest who tried to help Christians escape the harsh Roman prisons where they were tortured. According to this encounter, Valentine was among the inmates in such cells, and he may have written note to his ‘Valentine’ – a girl he may have fallen in love with- probably the jailor’s daughter- when she visited him in jail. The interesting thing is that these legends point to the ultimate sacrifice for love of fellow humans.
There is also another school of thought- the school that told you that Easter and Christmas holidays were Pagan festivals. According to this school, Valentine’s was misappropriated from the pagan religion’s festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia, according to legend, was a festival in memory of Lupa the she-wolf who nursed the founders of Rome- Remus and Romulus. “The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification,” suggests history.com. “They would then cut the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide.” The ritual was perceived to promote fertility in human, animals and crops. This was a time when men believed to be the bearers of the seed that would grow into a child in the mother’s womb. Science disapproved this by bringing about the concept of fusion of the male and female gametes. As it were, Lupercalia was a festival of fertility and purification followed by matchmaking lottery where men would pick names of women from an urn. The woman one picked would spend time with the man during the festival and if the match was right, for the rest of their life.
The martyr and the festival of Lupercalia work out to be the perfect ingredients for February as a love month, do they? The oriental legend disagrees with this through the love story of Altair and Vega. There are various angles to this love story that supersedes Romeo and Juliet. Some legend says that Altair was an orphan, who’s only inheritance was a bull. One Sunday afternoon, Altair sat down under an oak tree and practiced an old love melody on his flute. This attracted a white dove that transformed into the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her name was Vega. Altair and Vega became lovers. As their love grew, Mother Lady of the Sky got suspicious of Vega and sent a spy to investigate. The Spy’s findings infuriated Mother Lady of the Sky who descended, took Vega and separated the two lovers with the Celestial river of the Milky Way.
According to a different legend, Altair was a cowherd and Vega a seamstress for the gods. Vega loved listening to the birds sing and she would give them water and bread crumbs just for them to be by her side. Similarly, Altair loved the music of the birds. He would split the food of the cows and spare some for the birds just to attract them to his side. One day, Altair saw Vega at the river bathing, her voluptuous body, bright eyes and long graceful neck enchanted this cowherd. They fell in love. Vega had a secret; she was an illegitimate daughter of the King of the Sky. To save her life, the king had entered into a pact that she would become a seamstress for the gods. Though her love for Altair did not get into her duties, she would take longer than usual to finish clothes ordered by the gods. The gods got angry and tried in Vain to separate the two lovers, but the charm of their love was stronger than any the gods would fashion. To stop this union forever, the gods built glass boxes and placed the two lovers opposite the celestial river of the Milky Way.
However, on the seventh day, of the seventh month Vega cries so hard that all the magpies of the world fly to the sky, they form a bridge across the river so that Altair and Vega could have one night of passion. This festival is celebrated as Tanabata on July 7 in Japan and Qixi on August 7 (according to our calendar) in China
Now this is the perfect love story, forget the martyrs and the fertility whips, this is the glory of love, the triumph of those in love crossing the oceans, merging with nature.
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