Thursday, February 2, 2017

Valentine's Day

It's February again and that means it is almost my least favourite card holiday of the entire year: Valentine's Day.

I don't like Valentine's Day. I have never been a fan of it, and generally I just don't really want to be a part of it - all my friends know and I think they gear up for it every year. Depending on the year we may watch horror movies, get drunk, watch romantic comedies or dramas, or we'll go for a meal or to a festival or occasionally I may just turn off my phone and skip the whole day. It can be done believe me, I know. Once we even went to Disney World.

Over the years I've received cards from well meaning friends and 'secret admirers', care packages and one time a ladybird stuffed toy. It's always lovely to be thought of and reminded that the people you care about love you, but is that really what Valentine's Day is about? 

I have only ever been single on Valentine's Day, and this year will still technically be no different. Whilst I do have plans (my constant Valentine/Lover/Best Friend KA will be visiting then directly after so will my brother) I'm not really sure how to feel about the day this year. I'm not disgusted, horrified, hurting, sad, angry or feeling ironic this year. I'm not loved up with someone (technically) and yet I'm not viewing the day with a gimlet eye like usual. I'm almost looking forward to it which is a weird feeling for me: a known advocate for how much Valentine's Day sucks. 

I've actually already bought cards and presents. One of course for my annual Valentine, KA. The other? Well...

The history of Valentine's Day is kind of misleading and confusing thing to determine. There are so many mythologies and folklore stories that don't entirely show up in the history or archaeology outside of word of mouth and legend - but that of course doesn't make it necessarily false. 

Image result for st valentineFunnily enough, unlike most traditional holidays, Valentine's Day actually does come from Christian origins in the forms of not one but two St Valentines, Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, during the Roman period. Both St Valentines were martyrs and killed for their faith which makes it a weird origin for a day dedicated to candy hearts and roses. The St Valentine that we do stem the holiday from however is St Valentine of Rome, who, due to popular legend, not only became  martyr but symbol of romantic love by marrying Roman soldiers against the law of the time. He was executed because tried and failed to convert Emperor Claudius to Christianity, supposedly healing a blind woman in the process. The night before he was executed he is said to have written the very first Valentine card to the woman he restored sight to, signing it as 'your Valentine'. Probably totally innocent, but uncomfortable nonetheless. Also, not hugely romantic or much of a display of romantic love. Familial, altruistic and spiritual love yes, but Valentine was not in love with the girl that he healed even if you could say he was an advocate for couples to be together in marriage. Though when another part of the legend suggests that he cut heart shapes out of the parchment he was writing on to remind men of their love for god I can see how society got confused about this. 

It wasn't really until Chaucer and the Love Birds came along that Valentine's Day really became historically traceable as a holiday to celebrate romantic love. During this period of the Middle Ages when courtly life was rife with romance, sex and scandal (and would continue to be so for centuries) it only made sense for an annual day relating to exactly the kind of frivolity that Valentine's Day represented - especially when an ever more present Christian society meant that Beltane (the much older Pagan holiday) was not as acceptable to celebrate openly anymore. It was also Chaucer who first really made the connection between St Valentine and romantic love in the aforementioned works and then onwards through the Canterbury Tales

Being the most recognised works of the Middle Ages besides the Magna Carta, it isn't surprising that our connections and romanticism of the time come from Chaucer in hindsight, just like the Odyssey and the Iliad did for Ancient Greece. I mean of course that in looking back and drawing interpretations of the past about society we infer from popular works thus affecting how Valentine's Day is structured today. It's debatable in whether the tradition is hindsight romanticism or a consistent but changing ideology. 

At any rate, from then on it became a popular culture sort of thing; revered by Kings of Europe (Especially the French), enjoyed by the wealthy and utilised by writers, playwrights, and poets including, but not limited to, my buddy William Shakespeare. Just look at this snippet from Hamlet of all plays:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5

Truly touching, Bard. Nothing like a little de-flowering on Valentine's Day.

By the time we made it to the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, Valentine's Day evolved in a similar way to Christmas, Halloween, Easter and Mother's Day. The initial meaning and purpose behind the day faded into the background in lieu of the popular culture meaning. For Valentine's Day it's 99% of the time more about the flowers, hearts, cards, picnics, red, pink and presents between couples than anything else. The day of and days surrounding become saturated with the stuff which for those unattached, lonely or heartbreaking can be somewhat cruel - I've been there. There is nothing less fun than seeing hundreds of happy couples out and about, doing kitsch activities and swapping gifts if you envy them.

I don't envy the couples every year, and it isn't why I don't like Valentine's Day. The truth is Valentine's Day makes me sort of uncomfortable and anxious. Of course it would be sweet to spend it with someone I loved that loved me in return but when there are 364 other days of the year that we can do the same things that isn't really a reason. Valentine's Day isn't the only day you can express your love for someone - it's just the one day of the year it has seemed to become ok to rub it in the faces of other people who don't. 

And yet, in the right context (yes there is a wrong context), it is kind of nice to receive a present, flowers or a card. I had someone send me flowers at work a few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, and I was so happy and touched that I cried at my desk for the better part of an hour. I had never realised how much I had wished for someone do to that for me just because. Now that Valentine's Day is around the corner and the fact that I am going to be surrounded by couples exchanging those sorts of gifts is an eventuality, I think I am a little envious. 

Before I explain that more I just want to make it clear that I am happy with where I am at. I am not in a relationship, I don't have a significant other, though I do have someone I care about and the context of that is not something I need to go into bigger detail with right now. But I am happy and at peace with the way things are today. I am envious because as always I want it more, so much more, and I have so much to give in return. I am envious because for once I want the flowers. But not because I want them. Not because it will be Valentine's Day, not because it's expected. I want the flowers because someone wants to send them to me because they want me to have them, they want to show that they care and they want me to smile. That's why I want the flowers. 

I have never been a fan of Valentine's Day but this year I don't want to avoid it or ignore it or replace it with horror movies. Weirdly for once I want to enjoy it and be a part of it, and not even as irony. I want to buy myself something pretty to show myself how much I care, I want to send some flowers, give cards and presents and express a little love I just don't feel like hiding right now. Not just to one person but to everyone and not just because it's Valentine's Day but because I love every day. 

Does all of this sound crazy in general, or crazy because it's coming from me? Did the Valentine Grinch finally make peace with Valentine's Day? Or, am I just at peace and much too infatuated to be distressed?

Sam xox

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.