Valentine’s Day: What’s it all about?

So, how was it for you? Was your Valentine’s Day filled with cards, flowers and romantic gestures? Did you celebrate your friendships and spend time with people you love? Were you excited to see what your partner had planned for you, or desperate for the whole thing to be over?

According to Statista, in 2019, an estimated £1400 million was spent in the UK celebrating Valentine’s Day; on everything from dining out, to jewellery, to flowers and cards. What a romantic nation we are!

Call me a cynic, but what proportion of that, I wonder, was spent by people acting entirely out of their own free will rather than a sense of obligation. I mean, it’s new couples really isn’t it, those in the first flush, still in the honeymoon phase. The hopefuls still bothering to brush their hair and put a bit of lippy on for datenight. That’s your target market for the Valentine pound.

My best ever Valentine’s Day was the first one I spent with Mark. We’d been together a bit under a year, and he was still trying hard to impress. He booked us a table at a rather lovely boutique restaurant and was understandably delighted with himself for finding such a gem. I too was rather delighted, though more than a little surprised at his uncharacteristically high-end choice.

I remember little about the meal or the surroundings. What I remember very clearly was the look on his face when we sat down to read the specially curated Valentine Tasting Menu and he clocked the number at the bottom of the page. He’d failed to add the V factor to the bill when he’d budgeted for his romantic gesture. I have literally never laughed so hard.

It remains the only time we’ve ever been out on Valentine’s Day.

As a singleton, it was a completely hideous affair. ‘The postman hasn’t been yet’ I’d joke, ‘probably waylaid with the heavy load’. Oh, how I laughed.

Occasionally there would be a card from an unknown sender. A secret admirer! For a while I’d get lost in the romance of the situation. I was a young Audrey Hepburn, glamorously swooning over an elaborate gesture from an eligible young man.

Gradually the reality of the situation would come into focus as the list of possible contenders appeared in my mind’s eye. A virtual identity parade of unsuitable suitors would stand before me as I sat eating toast in my very un-Hepburnesque dressing gown.

Has anyone ever heard of a successful relationship that started with a Valentine’s card?

These days it’s all a bit of a family affair in our house. My 6 year old is quite the romantic. And by that I mean a consumerist. For her this was less an opportunity to tell someone she loves them as it was a chance to take a grown up shopping.

Valentine’s Day fell at the end of an extremely long, wet, dreary half term week. I’d spent much of it fielding questions about when exactly we were going to the shops and what she was going to buy for the ‘one girl and one boy’ she had considered worthy of her affection; and her parents’ money.

Grandma eventually came through for her. The evening before the big day she beamed with excitement, asking Mark and me in turn if we could guess who ‘the girl and the boy’ might be. Literally no idea. Stumped. A call was made to Grandma to check the whereabouts of the pre-purchased stash, ready to deliver to the mystery recipients the following morning. She went to bed so excited. ‘I wonder how many cards I will get’ she pondered as she snuggled under her duvet.

The Greeks famously have loads of words for love. Who’s to say St Valentine just had the romantic kind, eros, in mind when he sent his cherubs firing off arrows all over the place. Hallmark et al are certainly keen to convince us that we should liberally celebrate love for our friends. And now my daughter seems to be forging a new norm in the celebration of family love.

It seemed my love for her was suddenly being called into question. I know it’s ridiculous, but I was immediately filled with a sense of panic and embarked on a flurry of activity involving a printer, a guillotine and a Pritt Stick.

For the record, my 8 year old was acknowledged too. While he seemed a bit bemused by it, there would have been emotional scarring and possibly therapy if we’d not equally demonstrated our love for both children by way of a hurriedly produced homemade card.

To his credit, despite the trauma of our first Valentine’s Day, Mark does still consider the day worthy of a nod to romance. I’m unclear whether that’s out of a deep sense of love or fear of my wrath.

In truth, I’m undecided on what I make of it all. A marketer’s dream, or a chance to celebrate love in a world full of everything but? For now though, I’ll just enjoy another heart shaped chocolate, and mightily appreciate the love it came wrapped up in.

Post Author: catherine

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