Today is St. Valentine’s Day. A commercial celebration of a person who apparently was murdered under Roman governmental decree. Also a person who is said to have cured blindness and deafness by the laying on of hands. His murder is reportedly to have been because he advocated one religion when the government of the time wished the population to participate in a different one.
I have very sensibly purchased a card full of saccharine and a gift full of sugar. I shall give it to someone, who will not, I presume, murder me. It was not a cheap card but you have to be sure with these things. I am still allowed to treat with deity on my own terms, but dealing with the loved one requires a little more circumspection. Heaven can only throw thunderbolts during storms but the wife can do it no matter what the weather.
If this sounds cynical, it is. But it does lead to a number of questions for the student of superstitions. Is St. Valentine’s Day valid for people who are not of his religion? There are lots of us in lots of different divisions of faith…but we all have sweethearts – if we’re lucky – and the commercial pressure is on to promote romance, flowers, jewellery, and confectionery. I don’t think the sellers of canned lovey dovey will check to see if you are the right sort to follow a saint.
I don’t mind romance, love, sex, or anything else that fills up the hours between breakfast and late-night cocoa. I’m up for anything as long as it doesn’t involve teenage music or strobe lights in the eyes. A quiet exchange of expensive cards is fine.
I do not know whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. Some countries do – some don’t. Some people make a great deal of it and others ignore it. I have always enjoyed it as a delightful piece of sentimental nonsense.
As a child we were always compiling a list of people to whom we would give or post valentine cards to – all our classmates, all out family friends, and all the relatives nearby. The cardboard cards we got from Hallmark professed affection and as long as everyone got one, no-one felt unloved. I have often wondered if any of the old things were ever kept.
Now that I am retired I do not participate in the desperate bonhomie of commerce or science. I can reduce my contacts to those I like – and I have done so quite deliberately. I do not need to seek their approval of affection, and would regard a valentine as an intrusion from me to them. I reserve the card and the small present for my wife, and if I am clever enough to purchase chocolates or wine I get my fair share of them as well. I mean, sentiment is all very well, but sentiment plus chocolate has to be better, right?
But Valentine’s Day is too close to Christmas, Chinese New Year, and Easter to make sweets a comfortable thing. I would much appreciate a tradition that gave pickled herring or chili or cracker biscuits to the loved one. Is there no Dutch or Mexican saint that could be called upon to set the menu? Or are they all engaged writing snippy little memes for Facebook to belittle Donald Trump?
Ah, well, the chocolate will have to do. Fortunately we are not a jewellery family, nor am I expected to give furs, motor cars, or apartment buildings as tokens of love. I could probably manage a bondwood caravan and a ferret, but.