Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Valentine's Meme Comment and My Reply

I received a comment from Mighty Mom on my post yesterday of Queen Mimi's royally decreed meme - "The UnValentine Grumpy Meme" - that I was going to address via email but once I started writing my reply, it seemed to take on more of a life as a blog post rather than a quick reply so I figured why not?  I hadn't done a post yet for today and was struggling to come up with something and this seemed like a good chance to address some of the reasons that I'm not all that keen on Valentine's Day and the once-again associated commercialization of the day.  First off, here's Mighty Mom's comment:
"I love ya Linda, but I'm getting so tired of listening to people whine about St. Valentine's Day. Honestly. When I was single in college a bunch of us threw stag un-valentine's day parties and had a GREAT time. And I've said before, barren women have at least as much gut-wrenching PAIN associated with Mother's Day and yet I don't see them whining and snivelling each May.

St. Valentine's Day is a holiday...specifically a Holy Day recognizing one of the church's more well-known saints. It is a day to celebrate love and lasting relationships....in a society where we frequently bemoan how easy and prevalent divorce is I would rather see us celebrate relationships and hail people who have managed to stay together while holding onto the hope that everyone find their special someone.

"Every morning you wake up YOU decide what kind of a day you're going to have." Grandma Traver"
Sarah, you make some very valid points and truth be told, had I not been tagged for the meme I wouldn't have said a thing about Valentine's Day one way or another as even though I don't celebrate it - I know that many others do and that's great for them.  The meme seemed like a good way to write about the virtual roses that Dennis had sent me and the virtual candy I sent back to him plus I really didn't want to be thrown into the dungeon! If Queen Mimi tags you, it's best to do the meme!

Seriously, though, as for the religious reasons behind the holiday, I've read various accounts of the two different Valentines (Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni) that the holiday may relate to but no romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these saints who were martyred in AD 269 and 197 respectively. Apparently in Medieval times the name Valentine (derived from the Latin word "valour") was so popular that more than 50 Christian martyrs claimed the name.  These various saints all had a feast day called "St. Valentine's Day" but not a single one of them were associated with romance.

It wasn't until the 14th Century that the holiday first became associated with romantic love when Geoffrey Chaucer - an English author and poet best known for Canterbury Tales - wrote a poem called The Parliament of Fowls to celebrate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard the II to Anne of Bohemia - an occasion which actually occurred on May 3rd.  As was the tradition in his time, Chaucer strove to associate the day with a feast day of one of the saints and he learned through his contacts in Italy that May 3rd was the feast day for Saint Valentine of Genoa, who lived in the 4th century and was the city's first bishop.

Before Chaucer died in 1400,  the shift to February 14th for the lovers' holiday occurred as that day served as a collective feast day for more than a dozen "Saint Valentines".  The imagery that we associate with Valentine's Day - such as flowers and birds and cupids - are more in keeping with the May 3rd date though as those are all Spring-like images. 

Oh, and just to add to the confusion of the religious connotations of the holiday, in 1969 the Catholic Church struck Saint Valentine's Day from its liturgical calendar as part of a series of multicultural reforms that de-emphasized Roman or Italian saints. The saints were not de-canonized or declared nonexistent but merely suffered liturgical demotion and more or less disappeared. Today, February 14th is the day to celebrate a pair of apostles who translated Christian texts into Slavic according to the church's calendar - not too much romantic about that I'm afraid. 

The first valentines in America were exchanged during the Revolutionary War and obviously they were handmade and featured sentimental verses that were written in a flowing script.  In 1849 the first mass-produced valentines in the United States were made just up the road from me in Worcester, Massachusetts by a lady named Esther Howland who took her inspiration from an English valentine she had received. Esther paved the way for Valentine's Day to become what is known as a "Hallmark holiday" and since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary."

In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards became the practice of exchanging all sorts of gifts including flowers, chocolates, and the like. In the mid-1980's, the diamond industry jumped onto the proverbial bandwagon touting the day as the perfect one to give jewelry to that special someone.  In other words, what was a nice small holiday to mark the occasion of one's love became a big, huge commercialized undertaking like so many other holidays here in America become. It's rather sad actually which is why when I was married, my husband and I used to make each other handmade Valentines and called it good.

Love doesn't have to be jewelry or flowers or candy or sexy lingerie or any of that other stuff that people are compelled to buy for Valentine's Day and that's where my disgruntlement with the holiday comes in. The emphasis by retailers to shower your love with gifts sort of makes those of us who aren't showered with gifts - be we single people or even people who are in a relationship with a non-romantic type - feel like we are being excluded. Heck, I know more people who are IN relationships that don't like Valentine's Day then those that aren't for the simple reason that their significant other didn't meet the expectations that retailers set for Valentine's Day.   If you aren't in a relationship then you have no expectations nor disappointment when the hoped-for flowers or chocolates don't arrive.

All that said, I totally agree with you that it is a wonderful thing to have a holiday that celebrates lasting love and relationships that have stood the test of time as there are so many these days that don't.  True love should be celebrated and reveled in and I am the first one to stand up and applaud relationships like that.  My parents certainly had one and I always said that was the type of love I wanted - I just wasn't lucky enough to find it like they were.  That doesn't mean that I wake up every morning and think "oh woe is me, I have no one" as I don't.  I wake up every morning and I'm thankful for my life and for the fact that even though I don't have a male significant other that doesn't define my life and who I am or what kind of day I'm going to have.  Sure, it would be great to find the ying to my yang but if it doesn't happen that's okay and I'm not bitter about it.  Most of the time!

Your Grandma Travers was most definitely right in that YOU decide what kind of day you're going to have and truth be told, most of my days are pretty darned good even without chocolates, flowers, and jewelry.  Oh, and as for Mother's Day, not all women may be mothers themselves either by choice or not however, everyone HAS a mother (or sometimes that's sadly read as "had" a mother) and perhaps that's where less whining comes in for that holiday - which is yet another that has become way too commercialized it seems.  At least in my own humble opinion. 

15 comments:

  1. Great historical account. The legend I've always liked is that one of the Valentines would provide doweries to poor girls so that they would be desireable marriage partners at a time when marriage was more for dynastic reasons than it was for romance.

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  2. I love Valentine's day. Hubby and I celebrate Valentine's day every day of the year.

    Great accounting of the history here Linda. Good for you.

    Have a terrific day. Big hug. :)

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  3. You've got your ducks all in a row, Linda! Good job!

    I still wish I were lucky in love, though. Woe is me. bwahahahahaha!

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  4. Put your name on the Mr Linky next timer you do one of Mimi's as I can look at them later.

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  5. Another great job on educating your readers.

    Big hugs to ya...

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  6. Those of you that have perfect relationships good for you to have a holiday just for you. Those that don't treat each other will love or respect all year long but buy cards and roses is sad. whining on Valentines day is my way of grieving the fact that I no longer have that love and relationship in my life. If it makes other people better to think I'm a loser because of feelings good for you.

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  7. "barren women"!? WTF! is this 18th century England?
    and as you said everyone has a Mother, or some woman who was a role model in their life
    I always gave my Nana and my Aunts gifts on Mom's Day

    I had a lovely Valentine's Day because of Hope
    I gave her little gifts and sang to her and told her how much I loved her - but then again I do that lots of other days as well

    I despise the holiday and see no reason for it other than to commercialize every aspect of life

    a holy day to commemorate lasting relationships? perhaps the "holy" community would better honor lasting relationships by letting gay people marry

    and finally - even if Valentine's Day was Christmas, Good Friday and the freaking tooth fairy all wrapped in one you can share your feelings, that's the point of blogging
    I'm very suspect of people who tire of "whining and sniveling" when reading someone else's feelings
    that's just - well - un-Christian like!!

    oh - and way to do some research

    I love ya Linda, no buts about it

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  8. wow, great blog post to answer a rather snotty comment honey! plus i learned something! thanks...

    smiles, bee
    xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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  9. Bee, I really don't think that Sarah meant to be snotty or offend anyone at all - at least that's not the way that I took her comment. I think she just wanted to express how she felt about Valentine's Day and I certainly didn't write this post to put her in a bad light at all. I just wanted to explain my feelings on the matter so that we - as mature adults - could agree to disagree.

    I guess that Valentine's Day can be like politics in that it can apparently cause a lot of varied opinions. Who knew?

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  10. EXCELLENT BLOG POST, Linda!!!!

    First, I do not like V Day for the same reasons you do not like it. It is contrived. It is commercial. It is phony and all-things consumerism. It places pie-in-the-sky expectations on mere human beings that are usually doing good to just make eye contact and give a good hug in the morning.

    Second? I wish I had your nerve. I second the comments before me that a blog is the owner's opinion, and those who don't like it can move along.

    And finally, I wish I could hug you right now. I admire your tenderness, your kindness, and your sincerity. You are honest about your feelings yet unafraid to disagree with others. You inspire me.

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  11. addendum: I know more infertile women that I dare to count that grieve intensely on MOther's Day. The dislike that I feel for V Day doesn't even compare.

    Those women who suffer on Mother's Day (from a prior infant death, miscarriage, or infertility), usually grieve in SILENCE because society doesn't grin and bear it when we BLOG about the pain of Mother's Day after the death of a child....

    bad, bad comparison.

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  12. I give you a ton of credit for your ability to express your opinions so well, Duchess Linda.

    I enjoyed reading the history of the holiday.
    You did a lot of research.

    Ralph and I don't exchange gifts and I don't get flowers (too expensive these days) but we did go out to dinner Saturday, something we almost never do.
    We all gotta eat, right?
    ;-)


    Not that I am critical of the many people who do exchange gifts on V-Day. To each his or her own!

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  13. This is the reason I have such respect for you. You understand how to disagree with someone, and state an alternate opinion, without picking a fight and belittling the other person for his/her opinion.

    As to the commercialism of any occasion, I think we have the choice to participate or not.

    And thanks for the research. I didn't know a lot of that about the occasion.

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  14. You're a much better person than I. I thought the comment was very snotty and mean-spirited. As others stated, our blogs are a place to vent, rant, laugh, joke or whatever we feel like on any given day. I'm ambivilent (sp!) about Valentine's Day.
    I have no religious affiliation with the day, and if folks want to celebrate it, go for it! I tend to view it as a Hallmark Holiday, too. What are anniversaries for?

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  15. I learned a lot here today. I'm sorry my Valentine post stirred up controversy here. I seem to be doing that wherever I go these days.
    Damned if I do and damned if I don't.

    But you answered perfectly. I learned a LOT. Thank you!

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