Bah humbug: Valentine’s Edition

Good evening ladies and gents, I’ve spent the afternoon working on the first novel in my trilogy; I needed a rest from writing the second volume. I surfaced from my imagined world to check people were still alive only to find my Facebook newsfeed is full of Valentine’s Day stuff.
I don’t do Valentine’s Day.

It’s not because I’m single. If I had a partner or partners I’d still refuse to have anything to do with the ridiculous event. I have some perfectly sensible reasons too.

1. I‘m not Catholic, so why would I celebrate a saints day? This is not as facetious as it sounds (I don’t celebrate St George’s Day either), and I am aware that people of all stripes celebrate the day.

In fact the holy day of Valentine, a Roman saint said to have been executed for marrying Christians, was abolished during the Edwardian Reformation and again during the Elizabethan Reformation.

2. I am not a bird in search of a mate for the season.

Prior to its being abolished Valentine’s is mentioned by Chaucer as the day birds are traditionally said to choose their mates (1380’s). By the 1440’s Lydgate mentions this tradition and a custom that grew out of it – that of sending a gift to a ‘Valentine’. Pre-reformation the practice is regularly recorded among the gentry, as exemplified by the Paston family, whose letters are such a useful resource for the fifteenth and later centuries. After the Reformation, while the religious overtones were abolished the amorous practices continued. There were two ways of choosing a Valentine, either by lot or by true affection. By the mid-1600’s the custom had become a popular tradition, reaching country people in their almanacs and the highest of society who spent large sums on gifts for their Valentine. The practice of choosing a Valentine by lot only died out in the nineteenth century. There are a variety of valentine traditions from all over the British Isles, which have developed since the fourteenth century, including ritualised begging by children equivalent to the winter festivals of All Souls etc.

3. I don’t care for commerce induced displays of affection.

The commercial element seems have developed in the mid-1700’s; the oldest example of a written compliment sent for St Valentine’s Day is from 1750 and the tradition became popular over the next fifty years. In about 1820 stationery appeared with embossed headings specifically for amorous messages. The Valentine’s card arrived in the 1840’s. By 1880 1.5 million cards passed through the Post Office, although a decline set in after this, because cards became ‘naughty’ or insulting, and by 1914 it became rare. It was only in the 1950’s that the tradition was adopted once more and has since become ubiquitous on the back of commercialisation and cheap sentimentality.

4. The emphasis of Valentine’s Day is on heterosexual, monogamous couples.

The ideal of heterosexual monogamy is emphasised on Valentine’s Day; if you don’t have this particular form of relationship you are excluded from the festival and assumed to have a less valid relationship. Platonic love, polyamorous relationships, people who choose to remain single, same-sex relationships, non-sexual relationships, etc are all valid relationships but we don’t have a day celebrating love in all its forms.

5. Why restrict yourself to showing love on one day of the year?

If you love someone, in whatever form that love exists between you and another individual, show love all year round.

6. Romantic, sexual love is not more valid or valuable than any other type of love

Despite our social conditioning that tells us a relationship which involves sex is more important than a non-sexual, romantic relationship, or friendship (how often do we denigrate friendship as ‘just friends’), the strength of affection between good friends can be as strong or stronger than that between sexual partners.

Love is love, everything else is socially constructed nonsense

All love is valid, all loving relationships are valid. There is no pyramid of importance when it comes to love.


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