This year, India’s government is asking citizens to spend Valentine’s Day snuggling up with a cow.
In a statement this week, the country’s government-run animal welfare department announced that “Cow Hug Day,” a new celebration of India’s traditions, will take place on February 14.
“Vedic traditions are almost on the verge of extinction due to the progress of [Western] culture,” the appeal reads. “The dazzle of Western civilization has made our physical culture and heritage almost forgotten.”
In Hinduism, cows are revered as sacred and sometimes associated with motherhood. Most Indian states, including Delhi, have banned cattle slaughter. The animal welfare department describes cattle as “the backbone of Indian culture” and says that hugging a cow on February 14 will bring “emotional richness and “increase our individual and collective happiness.”
Hindus make up almost 80 percent of India’s population, according to the Pew Research Center. About 14 percent are Muslim, while Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains make up most of the remaining 6 percent.
The rebranding of Valentine’s Day comes amid the rise of Hindu nationalism, which is “the idea that the Hindu faith and culture should shape the state and its policies,” per NPR’s Lauren Frayer. The current Hindu nationalist government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has sought to pursue this agenda.