Love is in the air…

Young couple with colorful balloons
Happy young couple in love with colorful balloons on the meadow

…And there’s nothing you can do about it. So pluck a rose, write some prose, wear your heart on your sleeve, or stay in and sleep (it is a Sunday after all)… Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us. Here’s to a day of love any which way you like it

The dictionary defines Valentine’s Day as 14 February, a day when it is traditional to send a card, often anonymously, to a person one is romantically involved with or attracted to”. Today’s Valentine’s Day does not fall under this definition. Today, a card does not suffice, it is rarely anonymous, unless of course you have a silent admirer and gifts are not just given to people one is romantically involved with. Parents get Valentine’s Day cards/gifts from their children (I wonder why because we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for that). Teachers too get gifts from their students and from the parents of their students. If one was to go by the definition this would be considered highly improper. Honestly this is one celebration that has lost its significant association with its origin. So Valentine’s Day, which always has had a religious basis to it, has evolved over the years into a day that celebrates love in its various forms and degrees. It is not the ‘Why’ that is important anymore but the ‘How’.

Love is meant to be soothing and unconditional, but frankly, there is nothing soothing in the build up to Valentine’s Day that is filled with tensions of varying degrees and ‘unconditional’ – most certainly not! Husbands, boyfriends, and partners are seen freaking out thinking about what they should gift their ‘Valentine’.

Modern relationships are hard enough without having to stage a major performance on a designated day. Men agonise over the greeting card racks, hoping they can choose a card that is neither funny nor too lovey-dovey. They wonder how personal or impersonal the gift should be. Are they saying too little or too much? Is the gift too extravagant or too cheap?

Is this then what being in love is all about? Isn’t it meant to be more complex than flowers, chocolates and gifts. Well, the only people who seem to be truly benefiting from this day are those in the ‘business of love’ so to speak. The perfect card, the perfect gift, the perfect date . . . Isn’t there enough pressure in relationships without having to live up to some romantic ideal on Valentine’s Day? Walking through the malls and shopping centres during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, one cannot help but notice flyers announcing V-Day sales and offers. The surplus of pink and red hearts, roses and chocolates, bracelets and rings just makes it impossible to ignore the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day.Today there are websites dedicated to Valentine’s Day celebrations, outlining what events are happening where, city-wise and options are offered on what kinds of gifts can be given to Valentines. The days where people just gave a single red rose to a loved one has gone out of fashion.

There are stories/myths about the origin of Valentine’s Day. But the exact details are pretty sketchy. Some say St Valentine was a Roman priest who lived in the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II who believed married men made bad soldiers had banned marriages. St Valentine is believed to have conducted marriages in secret and so was jailed and sentenced to death for his crimes. While in prison, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and on the day of his execution, which was 14 February sent her a goodbye love letter signed ‘from your Valentine’.

Some people believe the roots of the day stem from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, dedicated to the God Lupercus. On this day young men would draw the name of a woman from a jar and she would be his Valentine for the rest of the festival. Another story doing its rounds is that in the Middle Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who would be their Valentine. They would wear the name of the person on their sleeves — hence the expression “to wear your heart on your sleeve”.

Valentine’s Day may be a very special day for most people as they receive various tokens of love.  But for some others, it is a day of pain, a day of renewed grief, loneliness and sadness. This day can trigger feelings of loss, inadequacy, low self-esteem, disconnection, emptiness and rejection and some people may need to focus on their emotional and mental wellbeing.

According to one clinical psychologist, “It is hard to keep one’s heart open when it has been hurt and traumatized by a loss.” Valentine’s Day can be exceptionally difficult for those who have been recently separated, divorced or have lost a partner, says the psychologist.

I am not sure how you all have planned to spend your Valentine’s Day and how many of you are freaking out and how many of you are waiting with bated breath hoping to receive something awesome from your significant other! For me, it is going to be just another Sunday, my husband may surprise me with a rose plucked from our garden. But I never miss the opportunity to ask him, “Honey, what are you buying me for Valentine’s Day?” just to hear him say, “You have me.”


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