No Love Lost for Valentine’s Day

In the UK, and increasingly in Spain it seems, no sooner is one festival over than the shops fill up with promotional items for the next one! Almost as soon as school starts in September, the back-to-school promotions end, only to be instantly replaced by Halloween, and the day after Halloween, the Christmas season begins (with Bonfire Night also making a brief appearance in the UK). But it’s once the Christmas things are taken away that the shops begin to promote my most hated festival of the year; Valentine’s Day. In my opinion a celebration created by greeting card and chocolate manufacturers to make single people feel bad about themselves! And I’m not just speaking as a bitter single man; I objected to it just as much when I was in a relationship. Do we only express our love one day a year? Nothing says I love you more than an overpriced meal in a packed restaurant, or a bunch of flowers that is three times the normal price, or chocolates in a heart-shaped box…

But Valentine’s Day is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the world. In the UK and the USA, it is all about romantic love. However, in my first year at university, I had a housemate from Austria and I remember her returning from the shops one day and complaining that she had been unable to find a Valentine’s card for her mum! The British housemates looked at her in shock! But Valentine’s Day in Austria is traditionally a celebration of love in general; for friends, family members and romantic partners, although an Austrian friend told me it is changing thanks to the influence of TV and movies.

Before living in Spain, I taught English in Japan for three years. On my first Valentine’s Day in Japan, I was very pleasantly surprised to receive chocolate from female colleagues and students. At first I thought my luck had changed, but it turns out that this is the Japanese custom; on February 14th women give chocolates to men that they know, friends, colleagues, family and teachers. This is then reciprocated on White Day which takes place exactly one month later when men buy marshmallow gifts for women.

Last summer I visited Estonia and our guide was explaining about the country’s festivals. For the Estonians, February 14th is friendship day and celebrates everyone from friends to family members, couples and singles alike. I also recently learned that in Bulgaria February 14th is a day dedicated to wine makers which sounds more like my kind of festival, and in Ghana it is National Chocolate Day.

So, how am I going to mark my most hated festival of the year? Well as it’s a Wednesday this year I will be going to work and then in the evening, I will cook myself a nice meal. The same as I do on any other working day. And I will continue to show love to the important people in my life all year round, not just on one day of the year because a greeting card manufacturer told me to.

Jon Iveson

Keep Reading