Almost immediately after the silvers, blacks and golds of the celebratory artifacts of New Year were put into the clearance aisle of stores, the pinks and reds of Valentine’s Day made their appearance.
For just over a month, we’ve been plagued by the colors of the holiday, the push to excessive sugar consumption, and the declarations of love envisioned by the “most romantic” day of the year.
But, honestly, isn’t it just another calendar day? Why should we put so much energy into the expression of love for a single day?
In our consumer-driven culture, Valentine’s Day has become a marketing strategy. Chocolates branded in time for Valentine’s day are marked up; flowers reach an all-time high; prix-fixe menus draw crowds for those desirous of celebrating love on Feb. 14.
But by Feb. 15, the marketing world has deflated; those same chocolates can now be found marked 50 percent off. Those same restaurants return to normal pricing. The magical allure of Valentine’s Day has worn off … probably in preparation for the next commercial holiday.
The popularity of gift-giving and the exchange of cards, however, is not just a contemporary phenomenon.
The tradition reached its height in the 18th and 19th centuries. And yet, rather than the flimsy decorations available today, in the past valentines were much more ornate and tactical, requiring complex assembly and often poetry written by the giver to the recipient.
They were, therefore, much more personal. The emphasis was on the interaction with the valentine, inspiring the recipient to engage with and feel sentiment.
Today, unless we spend time crafting our own valentines, we have lost sight of the original inspiration – that is, to inspire feeling. And not just romantic feeling, but feelings of appreciation and care.
Valentines in the 18th and 19th centuries were, therefore, less of a commodity, and more of a tactile experience.
It’s the experience, I think, that has been ultimately lost in the mass reproduction of valentines today.
Often, we don’t even stop to write a personal note of sentiment within the card.
This has always been my biggest pet peeve with receiving cards of any kind. Why must we allow a company to tell us our emotions? What is so special about receiving a message that dozens of others will also receive?
What if, instead of fostering so much energy into a single day of the year, we were more honest with those around us?
What if every day was a celebration of love – not just romantic love, but all kinds of love?
What kind of a world might we inhabit if, instead of the dramatic swooning of cinematic productions, we fostered appreciation for all of those individuals present in our lives?
And what if that sense of appreciation involved more than just the saying of words, and instead enacted a greater experience of sincere sentiment?
Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.