Valen­tine’s Day: a Day of Love or a Day of Gifts?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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!

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