It’s Valentine’s Day.
It makes me wonder if elementary school age children still show up on Valentines Day with little valentines they hand out to the other children in their class.
We did that when I was little. I always saved the biggest, nicest valentine in the box for a boy in my class that I had a crush on. He had a crush on me too. It was sweet.
We were each other’s crush all through grade school, and in a way he was my very first date. In the 6th grade he took me to his Boy Scouts’s Christmas party. I still remember the dress I wore. He bought me a corsage of red sweetheart roses that his mother pinned on my dress. You never forget your “firsts”.
When we entered junior high our grade school infatuation with each other faded. He was no longer my valentine. Since then there have been so many “valentines” that I probably can’t remember them all. Young love is fickle and can be very fleeting.
Valentine’s Day, originated in 496 AD as the Feast of St. Valentine, observed February 14, established by Pope Gelasius I. It was a Christian feast day honoring St. Valentine of Rome who has become the patron saint of young people, love, and happy marriages. It wasn’t until the 14th and 15th centuries that the day became celebrated as a day for courtship and love.
In 18th century England it became an occasion where couples expressed their love for each other with gifts of flowers, confections, and greeting cards. In the 19th century handwritten valentine cards were replaced with printed greeting cards, most of which used imagery of winged Cupids, hearts, and doves.
Valentines Day is not an official holiday anywhere in the world. Yet it seems to be a celebration day people feel compelled to acknowledge and participate in.
In 2020 Americans spent $27 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts and observances. In 2021 that number dropped to $21.9 billion when the Covid pandemic was nearly a year old. But still, that’s a lot of money and is certainly a commercial reason for the observance to continue.
Most of the spending is done by men. Sales of chocolates (58 million pounds), flowers (250 million roses), greeting cards (145 million), and jewelry (220,000 marriage proposals), get a huge boost every February. Restaurants are booked to capacity for romantic dinners. It’s the second biggest time of the year for champagne sales. There is travel for romantic getaways.
Valentine’s Day is a big business! You would think that I, as a person who made her living in advertising and marketing, would be all gung ho for Valentine’s Day. But I’m not.
All this celebration of romance and love overlooks and alienates the millions of people for whom this is not a time to celebrate. Single people who have no romantic “someone” in their lives. People who have lost their loved ones and are still coping with grief. People who are recovering from, or in the process of, breakups and divorces, where the promise of love has turned into hurt, disappointment, and anger.
There are people trying to hold on to romance where it has all but disappeared, gone when the trials, challenges, and realities of everyday life have slowly whittled it away by one regret and one argument after another.
Valentine’s Day sets up great expectations that are often impossible to meet. What is a grand romantic gesture to one may not be enough for another. The pressure of “getting it right” on Valentine’s Day is immense.
There are now observances of “GALentine’s Day and PALentine’s Day” modifications that allow it just to be a fun time together with friends.
I am all for anything that gets people to think more about love for each other and less about dislike or hate. But I’m not sure that Valentine’s Day observances are the way to do it. Perhaps what we need more is something not based on romance, but just humanitarian caring.
A “people appreciation day” where we reach out to say “thank you” or “you’ve made a difference in my life”, or “your the best neighbor I’ve ever had”. So many reasons and ways, and so many people to show how much they mean to us. Maybe if each of us did that this Valentine’s Day, instead of the focus on a romantic gesture, we could be more inclusive and make it a special day in a much better way for more people.
After all, if you are lucky enough to have romantic love in your life, do you really need a designated day to express it?
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”Oscar Wilde
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