Valentines' Day - 14th February 2014

Boarding the morning bus, my loose change clattering into the fare-box, "single please" I say to the driver, (as opposed to "a return please") - but as soon as the words come out of my mouth, I smile to myself realising the irony of what I just said.

Some of my friends used to joke that they should put their bus fare in and say: "in a complicated relationship please" or "married please"... or even better "I refuse to define my relationship status or gender according to societal norms please"...

On sitting down, I noticed that Valentines' Day seemed to have had a strange effect on people.
There was more than a little bus-romance.
People smiling secret smiles at their phones and complete strangers talking nervously to each-other.

As much as I laugh at the whole V day thing - there is something really endearing about khaki-clad military guys from the nearby army barracks walking around with a bunch of roses.

It may be cliche and kitsch and a dozen other things that make the whole day a circus, a puke-worthy sick fest of pink and red, but the truth is, everyone loves to be loved.

Although couples will laugh it off and giggle about how stupid it is... they will usually still do something.

After my photography class, I decided to buy myself a valentine's coffee treat at Starbucks (but also because I needed coins for the bus - Edinburgh buses don't give you change...).
There were couples and couples and couples (surely Starbucks is a bit of an unimaginative date destination?)...
But as I said to somebody once before (you know who you are): You are never alone when you have books. And my secret literary stash was at the bottom of my bag for emergencies such as these.

Feeling happy and content, I got on the bus back home.
Completely forgetting that it was 'home time' for the schools, after a few stops a babble of excitable kids began climbing upstairs. Sitting rebelliously at the back, they screamed about "who Ross fancies" and chants of "you like her! you like her!".  I allowed myself a little inward smirk remembering what it was like when I was that age, trying to navigate all these alien social norms surrounding romance, blushing when I didn't want to and passing notes in class...

The cold Scottish rain began to lash against the windows outside, which then turned into snow just in time for me to get off. Snowflakes in my hair and catching my eyelashes, I ran to my front door in a frosty whirlwind and was greeted with hot tea and a toasty fireplace.

But, as I heard many people exclaim today: Why do we need a day for romantic love? And anyway St Valentine isn't actually about chocolate and hearts etc etc etc
Then the usual chat and exclamations about how it is a "cynical capitalistic ploy" to make money and/or "it's consumerism and comodification gone mad" and so on...

So I did some *cough* "reasearch"... (also known as Google).

Ever trusty Wikipedia states:

"St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. [2] 
A popular hagiographical account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell.[3] 
The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").
Jack B. Oruch writes that the first recorded association of Valentine's Day with romantic love is in Parlement of Foules (1382) by Geoffrey Chaucer.[21] Chaucer wrote:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day

Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
["For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."] "

Ok so that's how the whole thing started anyway... apparently...

So what about the economic / money-making aspect to all of this?

(Cheers Wikipedia): 

"Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[6] In the UK, just under half of the population spend money on their Valentines and around 1.3 billion pounds are spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent.[68] 
In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. 
The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When you include the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines.[61]
Valentine's Day is considered by some to be a Hallmark holiday due to its commercialization.[70] "

So yes. I suppose it has become a little over-commercialised and has changed its' meaning over the years.

But more important than that: all this love stuff can hurt.
Some of my friends are struggling at the moment to accept they are worthy of romantic love, others trying to understand what it is, and what remains when there is a sea between them.

The truth is that nobody really knows.

We put so much emphasis on first love, and have so many preconceptions about what it is, or what it should be, but, as far as I have seen, it's something that is not one set formula, can change, and can come in different forms in different times of your life.

What I do know for sure is that there is a huge variety of ways in which people perceive it, and I find it particularly interesting to look at how these sorts of things are understood and considered in other cultures.

(Wiki again) :

" In Slovenia, Saint Valentine or Zdravko was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims.[35] A proverb says that "Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots". Plants and flowers start to grow on this day. It has been celebrated as the day when the first work in the vineyards and in the fields commences. It is also said that birds propose to each other or marry on that day. 

I think this is just adorable. Anyway, it's not always about romantic stuff:

"In Finland Valentine's Day is called Ystävänpäivä which translates into "Friend's Day". As the name indicates, this day is more about remembering all your friends, not only your loved ones. In Estonia Valentine's Day is called sõbrapäev, which has the same meaning.[73]

In some Latin American countries Valentine's Day is known as "Día del Amor y la Amistad" (Day of Love and Friendship). It is also common to see people perform "acts of appreciation" for their friends. In Guatemala it is known as the "Día del Cariño" (Affection Day).[102] "

But this is by far the most complicated one:

"In South Korea, similar to Japan, women give chocolate to men on February 14, and men give non-chocolate candy to women on March 14 (White Day). On April 14 (Black Day), those who did not receive anything on 14 February or March go to a Korean restaurant to eat black noodles (자장면 jajangmyeon) and "mourn" their single life.[92] The 14th of every month marks a love-related day in Korea, although most of them are obscure. From January to December: Candle Day, Valentine's Day, White Day, Black Day, Rose Day, Kiss Day, Silver Day, Green Day, Music Day, Wine Day, Movie Day, and Hug Day.[107]"

So back to my day - I'm not completely cold-hearted about it all, so I made a cute Valentines' dinner for my parents this evening:

...but the snow (and a general 'blah' feeling) meant that I didn't go out in the evening as planned... which I feel kinda bad about...

Having and showing affection to our fellow human beings is probably the most beautiful thing we have in this world.

Whether we need a day dedicated to it or not, today was beautiful because I could see people smiling and see all the small things that make life worth living.

I wish everyday could be like this - and I have decided that I am going to try and show how much I appreciate people (romantically or not) on an everyday basis.

I know this is probably impossible, but better to try and fail than to not try at all, better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all...


(sorry for the cheesy nature of this post...)

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