To borrow and then invert a phrase of Bridget Jones’s, I am a ‘Smug Single’. I find the state of Singledom such a wonderful and liberating place that once, upon hearing that a friend had recently become engaged, I murmured absentmindedly, ‘Oh dear, I’m so sorry’, before coming abruptly to my senses and notching that clanger up as the first in a series of increasingly horrifying social gaffs. That being said, I do most fervently adore Valentine’s Day. There is just so much to love about it. Like all of our most popular holidays, Valentine’s Day is a jumble of grisly Christian history, pagan influence, inept calendaring and most of all, savvy marketing. What started out as a day of sacrifice and death has become a bizarre pink and red competition of affection. The fact that St. Valentine was, in fact, plural – up to three blokes can claim the moniker – does not seem to bother us, just as we rarely distinguish between Santa Claus and Jesus at Christmas. When it comes down to it, Valentine’s Day is about mass consumption, which can occasionally be very fun. In fact, I am convinced that England invented and then relentlessly pushed most of our national holidays purely because of the horrible weather. Think about it: we have Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter in quick succession, beginning as the leaves turn and continuing right up until bare legs become de rigueur once again. This primarily means chocolate in funny shapes and, most importantly, very cheap chocolate in obsolete shapes the next day!
As my good friend Wikipedia has reliably informed me, Valentine’s Day got a reputation for being the day of romantic love because of a poem that Chaucer wrote for the one-year anniversary of the marriage of King Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia. In a brilliant twist, the pair were only 15 years old on their wedding day, making them woefully underage in modern terms. With the childish delight of one who loves decoding gruesome lullabies, I quite enjoy informing traditionalists that the holiday they are so enthusiastically celebrating is famous for condoning the sexual relations of minors. This usually takes place straight after I point out that the heart-shaped tokens they are bestowing upon their dearest one bears significantly more anatomical resemblance to a cow’s heart than a human one. At this point they usually become quite wan and begin Googling anti-Valentine’s Day activities, of which there are many quite violently anti-sentimental options.
However, there are some lovely aspects of Valentine’s Day. Dependent upon where you are in the world, the day becomes more than just a day for lovers. According to my international friends, parts of Scandinavia, Lithuania, Latvia and many South American countries all utilize the day in varying ways to demonstrate love and affection for those they are close to. This is a custom I have adopted with gusto, ploughing all my single-person energies into making a series of ridiculous cards for my dog and buying the most lurid and unnaturally coloured chocolates for my family and friends.
However you celebrate (or anti-celebrate), I do hope you have a delightful day. With more than a nod to the arbitrariness of it all, I myself will be embracing the spirit of irrationality by garlanding the house with cow’s hearts, decorating the Christmas tree I haven’t thrown out yet with Easter eggs, putting carved pumpkins in the windows and slow-roasting a Catholic whilst wearing my Guy Fawkes mask. Then and only then can I feel that I have stylishly celebrated the day in keeping with the kind of scant regard that England has for history and basic common sense in the face of morale-boosting consumerism.
Image: adapted from meg82skylark’s image on Flickr