Monday, 14 February 2011

In Defence of St Valentine's Day

I've always been pro-Valentine's Day.  I think it's lovely.  What kind of a humbug are you to not enjoy telling someone you love them?  What do you mean, you don't love anyone?  Well,  now's the time to start.
     File:Anthropomorphic Valentine, crica 1950.JPG
I've been looking into the background of Valentine's Day, it appears it wasn't constructed by Clintons and Hallmark but based on a series of misapprehensions on how many martyrs there were called Valentine, when their Saint's day (or days) was (or were), what (if anything) they have to do with romanitc love, what date Chaucer was talking about when he writes about 'seynt Volantynys' day, and a convenient mash-up of the results of this with a Roman fertility festival.  But people have been sending Valentines since the 15th century.  I'm not going to check but I'm going to hazard a guess that Clintons hasn't been around that long.

Yes, card companies and other retailers absolutely want to make as much money from you as possible on Valentine's Day  - but how is that different from any other day?  When the Writer by Night (who has a long-standing hatred of Valentine's Day) and I celebrated our first 14th of Feb together, we made a deal that whatever we did would be free.  He made me an awesome comic and I made him a fluffy purple picture frame and a heart-shaped pizza.  We still have both of those things (we ate the pizza). You can celebrate without spending anything if you feel that strongly about spending £2 on a card.

And as for the argument that you don't need one day a year to tell you to make a loved one feel special because you should do it every day; well, I'm willing to bet that you don't.  I've heard more than once that over-use of the phrase 'I love you' devalues it, but I think that's categorically untrue.  Using it when you don't mean it devalues it, using it and then behaving in an unloving way devalues it, but I don't think you can ever say it enough.  If you can't remember when you last told the person you love that you love them, you need to say it again.

I am lucky, I know, to have someone to celebrate with and someone worth celebrating.  But one of my most memorable Valentine's experiences was a year when I was single and seven friends and I did a 'secret valentine' with a budget of £3 each, pulling a name out of a hat.  I got a red fluffy heart that vibrated when you pulled a string (if memory serves me correctly it was from Ash), John won by giving Ceri a bin bag full of inflated balloons and a pin, which when she popped them each had a letter inside spelling out a message.  Then we all went to the cinema to indulge Julia's crush on John Simm in 'Wonderland'.  That year I also sent someone an anonymous home-made valentine's card and a kinder egg.  It was an unrequited crush but it felt good to send it, and I'd like to think that it made him feel a little bit special that someone had gone to all that effort for him. 

Love is precious but it's also free and the more you give away, the more you get back.  I think it's a sign of a civilised society that there's a day dedicated to celebrating that.


  1. Hmmm, mixed feelings about Valentine's Day but I agree with a lot of this. I agree that if you really mean "I love you" then you can't say it enough. However, I can honestly say that we don't celebrate Valentine's day because we do things on the spur. I'm sure you do too but we don't do the whole Valentine's thing. It's not a criticism, just a personal thing and all couples a are different - right? You could, of course, say by that rationale "Why give presents just because it's Christmas Day then?" and that'd be a fair point... Guess I'm just a bit contradictory, being a bear of very little brain.

    Having said all this, the idea of sending and receiving anonymous cards harks to a kind of secret or forbidden love and seems very romantic. I hope what I've said makes some kind of sense.

    Great blog by the way, I look forward to reading more. Nik T

  2. Thanks for reading Nik! If you don't do Valentine's, as you say, that's a personal choice; sometimes (and I'm not saying this is you) I think people use the excuse of 'I shouldn't do something romantic just because I'm supposed to that day' because they can't be bothered, and I think that's a shame. The people you love are always worth at least a little effort.

  3. I have to admit that we don't do valentines, and it is because of the whole 'one day, decided for you by 'society', to treat your relationship especially special' is just total bollocks to us. And we do say I love you all the time. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say that me n Ant say 'love you' to each other between 15 and 30 times a day. Definitely there has never been a day where we said it less than 5. And we also do practically everything together, and tell each other everything. To the point that we don't even find it irritating or intrusive if one of us asks the other one what we're thinking. We just answer cos that's how much we've fused into some horribly deformed unit. But it's not that we hate the idea generally of people showing more love to each other. its just that a lot of love in a relationship comes from being good to each other, and trying to be better people for each other as well as for yourself, and a lot of people don't try to make each day better for the other person, or make themselves a better person for their partner. Some couples can be really unhappy, one might be playing mind games, one might be thinking about cheating, and yet if night turns to day and its valentines day, a lot of couples like that go right ahead and by a crappy bunch of presents made up of pink or red packaging and pretend its a celebration of their love. That makes a mockery of the supposed happiness of a relationship, and of the genuine happiness for many of the alternative - being single! The people in the middle, who are happy and celebrate Valentine because it seems natural and nice; more power to them even if I don't bother myself...

    Me, a couple of days before Valentines I bought some of the 'Valentines' massive toblerone for Ant, cos he loves toblerone, and gave it to him before Valentines. And the day after we went on holiday to london to enjoy Kevin Eldon standup, and I made Ant speak to Eldon, Lisa Tarbuck and Kathy Burke cos even though he's shy Eldon is one of his idols and I knew he love having done it :P


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