Valentine’s Day seems to be copping a bad rap these days, at least in some circles. As an example, I work in an organization of two hundred odd people, whose ages cover the spectrum from young recent graduates to semi-retirees like me. It was noteworthy then that yesterday I was apparently the sole recipient of a floral tribute (red roses sent by my hubby). I was surprised to discover this. Possibly understandable, I thought, if the long married couples had gone off the boil V-Day wise, but surely all those Gen-Y’ers or whatever Gen they are now would still be in hot enough pursuit of lurve to order up a few petals at the florist’s? But no. Someone suggested it’s because the young do it all by text message now. What next… virtual flowers from an Avatar?
An article by Roxanne Allan published in “The Advertiser” yesterday noted the response to a survey they’d conducted that asked, among other things, what people thought about Valentine’s Day. Some respondents said they kept it simple with a home-cooked dinner (albeit candlelit as a concession to romance), more than half said they did nothing, and the majority, whether they splashed out or not, thought it was too commercialized. Roxanne’s summary of the findings, not surprisingly, was that the day “seems to be losing its sparkle”.
And although the history of the event is still somewhat unclear, there’s no doubt it did once have plenty of sparkle. According to what’s known, the custom contains links to ancient tradition, both Christian and Roman. There’s confusion however over who exactly the patron saint of romance was. There’s been several St Valentines, all of whom seem to have met sticky endings. Why any of these should have conferred their name on this celebration of love though is a mystery. Don Juan Day for example, you could understand, or even Valentino Day.
Like most myths and legends, the true origins are intriguingly murky, at least up until the end of the 5th century when February 14th was declared St Valentine’s Day by papal decree. Some suggest that because this date was also thought to mark the beginning of mating season for birds (in some hemispheres) it symbolized the human equivalent, or at least the civilized lead-up to it.
However it came about, from the 17th century Valentine’s Day became a regular fixture of the calendar in many countries and was recognized by the exchange of handwritten notes and later printed cards. Like much else in our materialistic culture, cards have increasingly been supplemented by lots of other stuff, and the date has for many years been a field day for florists, sellers of toys and chocolates and of course upper class restaurants.
You can hardly blame people for feeling jaded. Becoming victims of crass commercially motivated manipulation isn’t something any of us do without a pang at best, or downright denial at worst. Still, if you took the latter approach to say, Christmas, Easter, Mothers’ Day, birthdays and so on (all of which occasions are equally as subject to rapacious consumer exploitation), it’d be a sad thing, and disaster for the retail and restaurant business.
And if it puts a few coffers in the tills of those who probably work hard for it, is that so bad? No-one’s forcing those red satin hearts or roses (ouch) down our throats. It may not be a bad thing to have an occasion already set down for us to show the one we love that we do, and it doesn’t preclude demonstrations of that at other times. Some men seem constitutionally incapable of entering a florist shop for any reason whatever, and they’ll never change, but for those who get a kick out of spoiling their partner (and plenty do), let them, I say. It’s all too easy to forget about special gestures or postpone them for lack of time and I’m as guilty of that as anyone. So I think it’s great that I’m reminded to go out and buy a mushy card and a little something that I know my loved one will be pleased to receive. I’m in good company here as Barack Obama in a recent speech apparently expressed his eagerness to get home to Michelle for a romantic dinner on the big day and said he had flowers ready and waiting.
So, to all those people who scoff at the whole V-Day thing (and I’ve noticed it’s usually the ones who never get anything), I say I’m not ashamed to have been lavishly spoilt with a card, roses and dinner last night at a swanky restaurant (see picture below). Of course if you did give the whole thing a miss, I commend your pragmatism and hope for your sake if you’ve got a partner that the decision was mutual!