“It’s just a ridiculous Hallmark holiday.”
That statement fills up my Facebook newsfeed pretty regularly toward the end of January and into the first half of February. It’s also heard from the mouths of co-workers, friends, and random passers-by. Valentine’s Day seems to bring out in people a certain loathing disdain. Some claim it isn’t a “real” holiday. Some smugly say that we shouldn’t have one day to show our significant others that we love them, but that it should happen every day. Some believe it’s a holiday that ostracizes single people everywhere. Me? I like chocolate. It is delicious.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are a little cloudy, but the timeline is still pretty clear. What was once an ancient Roman holiday known as Lupercalia (February 15) was turned into a Christian day of feast (February 14) around 496. In the 14th century, the big V day was officially associated with love by none other than the famous author Chaucer. Celebration of the day continued into the 18th century. It was celebrated by people giving gifts and handmade cards that featured hearts and cupids. Hallmark was founded in 1910. I’m not a mathematician, but those numbers don’t add up. To all the “Hallmark holiday” people: please shut up. I mean that as politely as I can when talking to broken records who repeat inaccurate clichés over and over.
Has Valentine’s Day become commercialized? Sure. And of course no other holidays do that. “Man, I’m stuffed from that delicious feast at which I told everyone how thankful I was. I should probably nap before I wake up at the butt crack of dawn to shove and yell at people. Grandma needs that 75% off big screen next month. ‘Tis the season.”
So, why do we celebrate it at all? That’s where the history gets muddled. Kind of like me trying to remember why I decided it was a good idea to eat an entire large pizza after drinking for eight hours. The most common lore behind Valentine’s Day revolves around a certain priest, St. Valentine, who married couples in secret after marriage had been outlawed by the Roman emperor Claudius II. Claudius worried that men with wives at home would be less effective soldiers, or that they wouldn’t want to go to war at all. When St. Valentine was discovered, he was executed for his acts. There is stipulation that he either fell in love with or had befriended the jailor’s daughter while awaiting execution. Before he was martyred, he supposedly sent her a letter signed, “From your Valentine.”
Regardless of how accurate the story is, it became a holiday that we’ve celebrated for centuries. If questionable historical significance is a problem, a large part of society might argue that a holiday celebrating a miraculous birth by a virgin leaves room for more explanation. I will admit that I’m unclear on the Valentine’s Day significance behind flying, naked babies wielding archery equipment. But I chalk that up to the same people who connected resurrections with egg-laying bunnies, and the births of saviors with rotund old guys using slave labor to build gifts for children. I’m a free spirit. I just roll with it.
Another argument against Valentine’s Day is that we shouldn’t have to have a certain day to tell us to show our love and affection to our significant others. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Love and appreciation should be shown every day. But what’s wrong with having one day to make it a really big event? I think of it as the Superbowl of love. I’d like to point out here that I just used a sports analogy. Be proud, Dad. It’s not all books, movies, and video games for this guy. Anyway, if we’re lambasting holidays because the meaning behind them should be celebrated and honored every day, we should probably get upset with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day. That would be upsetting. I’m kind of partial to Father’s Day. I would bet anyone who uttered out loud, “Mother’s Day is bullshit,” would be met with a few horrified looks. I have many friends who both serve and have served in the military. Although we should appreciate them every day, I like that they have their own holiday. My grandfather was a pilot in WWII. He’s now passed, but I love the idea of honoring our deceased ex-military collectively on one day.
Finally. Aww, the bitter single people. The day that forces us to avoid social media in an effort to not see sickeningly sweet posts about how happy everyone else is. The pictures of cards and candies. The plethora of engagements. Long soliloquies about how “my significant other is better than yours.” I get it. I’m one of you. I haven’t had a meaningful relationship in years. There’s the distinct possibility that my daughter is going to be the one to find my body one day. It will have been partially eaten by our two cats. I mean, if they panic when they see the bottom of their food bowl, I can only imagine what they’ll do when the food is gone and I’m not responding to their monotonous meows. I only hope they start with my love handles. I can’t seem to completely get rid of those bastards for anything.
The fact is, we need a day dedicated to love. Especially in these times. Why not do so by honoring a man who gave his life in the pursuit that endeavor? Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about being in a romantic relationship with someone. Nor does it have to be about commercialism. Here’s a tip, fellas. Listen to what your significant other has to say throughout the year. A gift that touches on something your partner mentioned she (or he) loves or appreciates doesn’t have to be expensive. It only has to be meaningful. Are you widowed? Spend the day going through old pictures that make you smile. Are you single? Adopt a shelter pet. Bring a homeless person food. Crash a singles party, have a few drinks, and hope for the best.
How will I celebrate? After I get off work tomorrow, I’ll be picking my daughter Madison up from school. She’ll probably have a Valentine card for me. I still have every one she’s ever made. I’ll have one for her too. We’ll exchange cards and talk about her day at school. Then we’ll go home and get ready for date night. My Valentine’s Day won’t consist of dozens of flowers or an expensive dinner at a five star restaurant. It won’t end with rose petals and lingerie. I’ll be exchanging poorly written homemade cards with my Valentine. I’ll sit at Olive Garden across from the most beautiful girl in the room. We’ll talk and laugh about whatever comes to mind. It will end with me tucking her in, telling her I love her, and listening to her giggle while I make kissing noises into her ear. My heart will be full. That’s a great day in my book. That’s a solid holiday. Happy Valentine’s, baby girl.