It’s that time of year again: shops start filling their displays with all things red, getting a table in a restaurant is impossible without signing up for the special ‘romantic’ two course set menu, and you can’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without being faced with a shopping page round up of products that are overpriced, and often quite tenuously linked to love. Ah, you’ve got to love Valentine’s Day (quite literally.)
With February 14th fast approaching, I decided to do a bit of research into this day, on which we are supposed to feel all warm and gooey inside. It turns out that Valentine’s Day is the second most celebrated occasion in the world, after New Year’s Eve. Quite a claim. It originally began as a celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus, and Saint Valentine was supposed to have been imprisoned for performing weddings for Christian soldiers persecuted under the Roman Empire. During his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius and before his execution he wrote “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.
But has the meaning got slightly lost in translation and how many people actually know about why we ‘celebrate’ this day? A strange phenomenon seems to come over people when mid February approaches and it’s hard not to get caught up in it. Loved up couples get swept up into spending obscene amounts on cards, gifts and meals out. Singletons hold ‘single parties’ to celebrate and commiserate. And companies capitalise! It feels as if I was still nursing my New Year’s hangover when I stepped into a shop in early January and the heart filled merchandise and cards in all shades of red and pink had been rolled out. Chocolates, roses and all manner of generic gifts are peddled to romantics, and the gifts available seem to get ever more extravagant. A heart shaped island off the coast of New York anyone? Your partner’s face made into a 3D chocolate gift?!
I’m not a complete romance-phobe however. It is fair to say that there is a special feeling about February 14th – especially with couples already proposing 95 floors into space at the newly opened Shard, love quite literally is in the air. And it’s nice to spread the love, not just to a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. Letting your friends know you care, or even doing a good deed to a stranger – could this perhaps be the next evolution of Valentine’s Day? I’ve noticed that many charities are capitalising in a different way by producing their own Valentine’s Day cards – they may as well get in on the action. And if presents must be bought, how about ‘Conflict–Free’ diamonds or fair trade cupcakes? In a better connected, facilitated and more aware world – maybe love really can be all around. And not just in a heart-shaped box of chocolates!