I have to confess that I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I’ve happily received a few cards over the years and some flowers, but maybe it’s the cynic in me that I find this prescriptive schedule for outpourings of love slightly uncomfortable and a bit manufactured.
Before I was married, my husband and I might exchange a card or a little heart-shape chocolate but that was about it. Nowadays we can usually muster a “happy valentines’ day. Do we have something for dinner?” as we bustle the kids into the car and hurry off for another day of work and childcare.
But this doesn’t mean we don’t love each other or that we’re bored, complacent or take each other for granted. We’re always working out how to live a happy, loving life while trying to tick all the boxes: working, exercise, looking after children, shopping, socialising and on it goes.
A little look into the history books tells us that Valentine’s Day was originally a day to honour several martyrs named Saint Valentine, although it hasn’t existed as a day observed in the religious calendar since the 1970s when it was officially deleted by the Pope.
It was the English writer Chaucer in the middle ages who is said to have helped establish Valentine’s Day with romantic love as distinct from religious recognition of suffering and sacrifice. Perhaps that’s why the Pope and the Catholic Church decided to cede ownership of the day and give it over to Hallmark instead.
Now it’s red roses and romantic dinners. Nice, what’s wrong with sharing a bit of love around, eh? But you might not know that the history books also reveal that 14 February was the start of the second Boer War in 1900, in 1966 the Australian currency adopted decimals and in 1779 James Cook was killed in Hawaii.
It was this day a year ago that the Bahrain uprising kicked off a wave of protests as part of the Arab Spring. A year later it’s the Syrians who are protesting and being subjected to a brutal crackdown. So 14 February is a day of red hearts for some and bloodshed for others.