Valentine’s Day: a Day of Love or a Day of Gifts?
We’re welcoming yet again the most monotonous of festivities in the year, Valentine’s Day. Miscellaneous items of red and white shower the William Peter Boulevard, other streets of Castries and store windows in Rodney Bay at every turn for about a week before and after the ides of February. Stalls are piled up over capacity in hopes of attracting school children and adults alike who have a beau (or a potential one) whom they would like to treat on that designated ‘Day of Love’. Everyone pretends to choose ever so carefully from the superfluity of automated teddies, plastic roses, heart-shaped lollipops and boxes of cheap chocolate knowing full well they all taste, sound and smell less than wonderful. Most surprisingly (and delightedly) the recipients are pleased to accept the same token of love every year, sometimes from the same person. I suppose it’s the thought that counts, never mind how repetitious.
As you can tell, I’m not the least bit thrilled about the idea of this ‘Day of Love’ which may be due, in great part, to never having had a Valentine other than my mother. I somehow appreciate everything romantic except romance novels (see my book review on page 16) and Valentine’s Day.
One of my reasons is: When it comes to showing love, what’s wrong with the other 364 days of the year? I believe that if someone wants to show love, it should be done consistently. Some people certainly do, but others wait only for this specific day when they feel obliged to do something special because everyone else is doing so. Well, that attitude really doesn’t make it special any more. Here’s a tip: send some flowers every once in a while, and for no other reason than you love the person!
Then there is the fact that Valentine’s Day is so commercialised. According to history.com, Americans spend an average of 20 million dollars on February 14th! Billions of flowers, cards and heartshaped boxes of chocolates are purchased. It seems as if both manufacturers and consumers are filled with the love of something for that day. The focus seems to be too much on the cards and presents rather than sharing actual love and appreciation.
Which brings me to my final reason: it seems that people are sometimes punished for not having a Valentine or not receiving gifts on that day. I’ve had my share of jokes for being single, which is bearable, but I remember seeing school-friends on many occasions reduced to tears. What definition of love and romance have we created from Valentine’s Day?
Saint Valentine was a priest during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II. The ruler believed that unmarried soldiers, without families, were more competent so he banned young men from getting married. Valentine, who had a softer, less battlewounded heart than the emperor, secretly married young couples, going against the law. He was sentenced to death for his deeds and, during his imprisonment, he received letters from the same young couples, and some others. It is said that Valentine replied to one of the maidens and signed his note with “your Valentine” and that’s how the tradition was born.
February 14th was designated as the feast of Saint Valentine at the end of the 5th century when Christian martyrs were commemorated in the renaming of pagan festivals. Maybe if we considered a little of the history of February 14th we would appreciate the day for what it should be and not what it has become. That, I think, is a beautiful bit of history.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Gifts a-plenty ahead of next week’s observance of Valentine’s Day. If only we could just buy love!