Will I be my Valentine? Feb. 14 is not just for couples
Is it not cool to say that you like Valentine's Day if you're single? asks contributor Monica Walsh
A friend of mine posted online the other day, saying she really loved Valentine's Day but was afraid to say it. I thought that was really interesting.
Is it not cool to say that you like Valentine's Day? Do we have to pretend we hate it? I know a lot of people do, and really, as a single woman in her 30s who has had her share of devastating heartbreak, you'd think I would hate it too. But I love it, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
My friend's comment was interesting to me, and made me wonder — why in particular do people dislike Valentine's Day so much — or pretend to? Some single folks say it reminds them of being single. I find the world every day reminds me I'm single, so whether that reminder comes on a normal day or a day with chocolate is all the same to me.
Some say it's extremely materialistic and shallow. Fair enough, it's a pretty formulaic holiday with things you're supposed to buy and do. People put pressure on themselves to be the perfect valentine.
Sweet memories of childhood
When I was a child I'd go to school on Valentine's Day and every child would have valentines for the entire class.
The cute little valentines were easy to collect, and sometimes you'd get a chocolate with it. There were no rules, each child could have one and it had nothing to do with anything other than children giving each other valentines.
I loved it.
I would collect all my valentines and read them for days, just loving the simple kindness and the little rhymes each one had. It was an innocent fun thing to do as children. I wish we still celebrated Valentine's Day like that, so it wasn't so focused on dating and romance — but simply joy and friendship.
When I grew up, I worked as a waitress for many years, as did some exes. So Valentine's Day for most of my adult life was just a busy work day.
Valentine's Day for restaurant workers is not unpleasant because of anything to do with love — but because of a potentially stressful, hectic work day where things have to be perfect and the restaurant will be chocked full of couples, wanting the best night of their lives.
Who is St. Valentine anyway? Did he say the day was only for couples? Celebrating coupledom in times of yore makes sense — because frankly, we needed to continue the human species. (Oh, and love, I guess). Apparently it formed from an ancient Roman ritual called Lupercalia that celebrated the coming of spring. (Obviously none of them had ever been to this province because February does not mean the coming of spring.)
February is the month of romance
The Roman Catholic Church recognizes three martyred saints named Valentine. So it's possible St. Valentine is actually based on more than one person.
The history of who St. Valentine really is continues to be shrouded in mystery. It's often maintained he was a Roman Christian priest who married people in Rome in the third century. At the time, an emperor named Claudius persecuted Christians but also forbade marriage. He felt soldiers fought better when they were unmarried, because single men were less concerned about their wives at home.
So Valentine performed secret marriages.
He was eventually caught and put in prison, where he became friends with his jailer's daughter who was blind. He supposedly cured her blindness, inspiring the family to become Christian.
Valentine was put to death, but before he died he wrote a letter to the girl he had helped heal, signing it "from your Valentine."
So while it does seem that history reflects the romantic coupling history of St. Valentine's Day, I still maintain that a holiday celebrating love can also be enjoyed by single people.
At that time in Rome, Lupercalia was already a celebratory festival of fertility in mid-February. According to legend, all the available women in the town would put their names in a big urn and all the available men would choose a name, and they would then be paired. Ahh, romance!
When Christianity began to take over ancient Rome, it was decided that Lupercalia was too pagan, so it was changed to St. Valentine's Day with elements of the romantic festival and the honouring of a Christian martyr. February was also seen as the beginning of the mating season for birds, so a romantic festival was fitting.
As far away as England in 1375, the well-known poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the poem, Parliament of Fowls, with the words:
"Or this was on Saint Valentine's day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make,
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake
Was so full, that there was scarcely space
For me to stand, so full was all the place."
Show a little self-love
Valentine's Day began to be celebrated in earnest around the 17th century, and in the 18th century it was normal for folks from all walks of life to exchange small tokens of affection.
In the 1840s in the U.S., mass-produced Valentine's Day cards became very popular. Today, it's estimated that a billion cards are sent each year. So while it does seem that history reflects the romantic coupling history of St. Valentine's Day, I still maintain that a holiday celebrating love can also be enjoyed by single people.
I love my family and my friends, and they love me. I enjoy getting little cards and chocolates, or even just well wishes.
Every year since I left the restaurant business, I buy myself some chocolate and I take the night to myself. I put in a nice fire and I watch my favourite movie. Sometimes I even give myself some pretty pink carnations.
To be honest, while I have had wonderful Valentine's days with partners, sometimes there was pressure for it to be perfect. I don't put that pressure on myself when I'm alone.
We're doing a lot of talking about saving the planet and caring for the world. I believe that by showing ourselves some self-love, we'll naturally treat others and the planet better. If you're single, or in a couple but your partner is away, or perhaps you're recently divorced and it's painful — I hear you.
So, why not do something for yourself on Valentine's Day that you find special, that brings you joy. A holiday that celebrates love and chocolate can't be all that bad.