Whether you happen to celebrate it yourself or not, every Valentine’s Day is impossible to ignore. No sooner are the Boxing Day sales finished with than the shops pack away the Christmas decorations and take the carols mixtape of its endless loop, and the marketing blitz begins.
Shelves stacked with chocolates loiter under sea of red, their location marked by balloons or signs covered in hearts to make sure there is absolutely no confusion as to what occasion they are counting down to. Advertisements assure us that if we just buy whatever product they are selling then we are guaranteed our happily ever after—and if we don’t, then we mustn’t really care about romance.
Regardless of whether you think Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday designed to increase profits for retailers, or true celebration of love’s beauty, as the day draws near there’s no way you can remain oblivious. From the increasingly omnipresent advertising, to the different ways media and entertainment try and tap into the seasonal buzz, or even the little reminders from the people around you, it permeates everything around us.
A matter of perspective
Depending on your own romantic fortunes it may affect you differently, but it will affect you—even if on a subconscious level. If you are blessed with love in your life, and generally content with where you find yourself, then the unspoken question the day is asking is already answered. All the symbols around you of our constant search for love serve as a validation that you are one of the winners in life’s race.
But, even if you are single by choice, it’s hard to drown out all the voices telling you that you are on the outside looking in. Valentine’s Day is either about keeping the love you have, or finding the love you must want and need. Everything about it is based on the default assumption that no one wants to be alone and if you are then there is something lacking.
Even the most well-meaning expressions of sympathy received when you've been asked if you have any plans and don’t give the expected answer reinforces the idea that, no matter what else we do, our lives remained unfulfilled without someone in it. Valentine’s Day can be pretty rough for you if you are lonely, or have lost someone, or in an unhealthy relationship.
Even if you don’t think the day has any real significance, when everything around you is telling you that something is missing from your life and you haven’t found what so many others seem to have, even the most self-assured of people might begin to wonder what is wrong with them.
You do you
Despite what we might have heard, there’s no right way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you want to mark it with romantic gestures then no one should try and belittle that choice just because they think it’s a commercial invention (my only suggestion would be to not limit those things to one day in the year—it’s a good reason to do something special but shouldn’t be the only one).
If you choose not to celebrate it then ignore anyone who tries to tell you that you are obviously not romantic or that you don't care enough. How people in a relationship go about things is no one’s business but theirs, as long as they make each other happy then it doesn’t matter what they do on a specific day.
Love finds a way
But, regardless, there is one thing that, while worth doing every day of the year, we can all be particularly mindful of doing in the days around Valentine’s Day. If love is something we value, then we can show love to those around us, whether they are our Valentine or not.
Chocolates melt and flowers wilt, but love can make a difference that never fades. It might be as simple as taking care to avoid making the day harder for those who might be lonely by parading our own happiness, or remembering not to assume that people want to be asked about their plans or asked prying questions. Taking a moment to include someone can make a difference beyond anything we can imagine—and show what love really looks like.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html