The pretty decorations and lights of the Christmas season are down. The bare, lifeless, branches of trees silhouetted against grey winter skies. Winter snows that transform our scenery into a powdery white wonderland soon become dirty slush and a nuisance.
Where’s the next holiday fix? Well, unless you celebrate Martin Luther King day or Groundhog day with other than somber observances, there are few huge flourishes on the horizon…
The Christmas clearance stuff is barely on the next aisle and Valentines is up.
People have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. It can be the joyful exchange of cards and sugar-laden parties in elementary school (it remains one of the few “non-religious” holiday observances that are permitted in public schools). It’s a sweet holiday for lovers, and after Christmas, the day when the most engagement rings are given (and according to some surveys, the day most women would prefer it to be Valentines Day).
Valentine’s Day can also be a lonely and sad day for many people: singles without a significant other; divorced, and widowed. Marriages where the love seems gone. It’s a holiday that mocks you. It seems like the world around you is screaming “you freak, there are no hearts and flowers for you!” or worse yet, “no one loves you.”
And you hit that discount bin of chocolate hearts and candies the day after, and eat yourself into a chocolate coma.
Quite frankly, some people can put quite high expectations on Valentine’s Day. Expectations are built for some big, memorable gesture of undying love. A ring. Uber-romance. And often, we come away disappointed.
I spent many a single Valentines pining for a special someone to celebrate it with. My life would be complete, I’d think. After marriage, from year to year, I wondered how my husband would commemorate this day. There was always something sweet from him: usually a Hallmark card (more like Dollar Tree 2/$1card, the funnier the better), flowers, candy, or a gift card for dinner out together. SJ was never one to plan ahead of time; it usually occurred to him on the “day of” that reservations for dining out needed to be arranged a few weeks before. Consequently, we had our share of not very romantic dinners eating greasy Chinese. pizza, or Tex Mex; often the kids were with us as we also hadn’t planned for a babysitter. On many years I took the initiative to make all the plans, in consultation with him. Bottom line, just as New Year’s Eve, I found the expense and fanfare of a commercial Valentine’s celebration to be underwhelming, overpriced, and cliché.
Being more the romantic in the family, I wanted an “occasion.” We always bought cards and sweets for our kids (SJ enjoying making these purchases even more than me). I would write him romantic letters; decorate the house and bedroom; buy his favorite snacks; I often would create a special gourmet meal for us adults, after the young ones were tucked away in bed. I love pretty lingerie and it was always an occasion to buy some new unmentionable “for him.” Candlelit bubble baths, massages… other sexy fun… More times than not, full from our special meal and facing a workday, we had little desire for more than sleep.
Then there was the year we took the 10-day sex challenge leading up to Valentine’s day. Can you say sore, and UTI?
I love all the cute decorations out there for various holidays, but sometimes I think we start putting up all the representations of a holiday and totally miss out on the true meaning. If Valentine’s Day is about love, then shouldn’t we be about love?
As I contemplated which decor I’d now use after eking the last possible moment from red and green table settings, I decided that this will be my season of love, rather than just one single day that happens to land on February 14. The Valentine place mats and napkin rings will be out. I’m considering some small tokens of love each day. I plan to read the “love is” passage in 1 Corinthians 13 daily, inserting my own name in place of the word “love:”
… is patient, … is kind, … does not envy, … does not boast, … is not proud. … does not dishonor others, … is not self-seeking, … is not easily angered, …keeps no record of wrongs. … does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. … always protects, always trusts, always homes, always perseveres. … never fails.
After all, if we are honest about it, love starts with us. “Orchestrating love” is really sort of pathetic. Celebrating love certainly is wonderful. But “being love” is much more real. And a heck of a lot more challenging!
And that’s what Valentines should be about. Not just a day, but every day of the year.