For as long as I can remember I have felt tortured by Valentine’s Day. I continued to do so as an expat in a country that seemingly does not care about this tradition. I had to look up the origin of Valentine’s Day because I have no idea why we do this to ourselves. Apparently, it celebrates a Christian martyr Saint Valentine who lived in the third century. In the 14th and 15th centuries it became associated with romantic love.
Life on the island of Barbados is simpler. This is due, in part, to being less commercialized than North America. At home in Canada, one celebration gives way to the next in the “seasonal” isle of the grocery store, pharmacy, and department stores. It starts in the fall with Hallowe’en (isn’t a thing here). Then comes Christmas, and as soon as that is over and the sales have cleared out the Xmas decorations, the shelves are filled with Valentine’s candy. Then there is Easter. Luckily, the North American summer brings a need for barbecues, patio furniture and beach wares that can take up these spaces when there are no pagan celebrations.
This doesn’t take place in Barbados. Part of it is the high duties to bring in items to the island, which reduces selection monumentally. This makes things straight forward. The grocery stores sell food, and the pharmacies sell drugs. There is a smattering of home supplies, suntan lotion, and junk food, but certainly no seasonal candy and decorations isle.
The other factor is that people don’t spend their money on decorations and candy. They spend their time with family on Christmas and Easter. The grocery stores go crazy around these times because to have a meal with loved ones is the way of celebration, and they go all out.
The restaurants on the island were full today (although, so was Chefette). People continue to feel the pressure to show their love to their significant other on this one day. I am not judging them because, I know even if it is not logical, I would be over the moon if a significant other had thought ahead to make a reservation for us to have dinner together on Valentine’s Day.
I have written often about letting go of rules and societal norms. It becomes difficult when we are programmed in ways that we don’t even realize. When I was a little girl, I loved Valentine’s Day. It was an exciting day, and I kept my valentines for years. When did my thoughts shift to one of dread? I am not sure, but I suspect it was when peer pressure told me that my worth was less if I didn’t have a boyfriend.
I am not saying a version of this doesn’t happen here. There are ways that this society make women feel less worthy without a man. However, I have not heard nor seen any ads for Valentine’s Day. It is not being actively advertised, and yet I felt shitty about the day approaching anyways. So, what is this about?
I decided to play this day differently. Someone did think ahead and invited me to dinner. Jen, my lovely yoga instructor, asked me to join her for a friendship Valentine’s dinner, getting us an early reservation because she knows the owner. We dressed up and had an amazing time. The food, the company, and the atmosphere at Castaways was memorable, in that I will always remember this evening.
I spent the day as an excuse to tell everyone in my life how much they are loved. If you do not get a personal message from me, consider yourself hugged!
Over to you: What are the ways that you are affected by the programming of your childhood or your society that you may not have realized? Have you been able to look at that and decide to “do it differently?”
LOVEEEEE THIS! I have to say, V-day and Halloween are two “holidays” I almost ALWAYS forget about, so I’ve never had FOMO over either! Long long ago my girlfriends and I got into the habit of wishing each other a happy “galentines” day (a tradition which I BELIEVE was started by the TV show Parks and Rec:) and I’ve never looked back! I love telling everyone how much light they shine into my life on Valentines day and Sheri, I think that that’s what the day is all about – if anything! Romantic love is just ONE type of love:) HAPPY GALENTINES DAY BB!
Vanessa, I don’t think that I have ever heard of Galentines until this year. I agree that romantic love is only one type of love. When we focus too much on finding that one person, we lose sight of all the others that send love our way. I am grateful for my girlfriends EVERY DAY of the year. I also have some pretty special male friends in my life… you know who you are!
For what it’s worth, my partner and I think Valentines day is a cruel joke couples play on each other once a year! It might sound harsh to say this, but we actually feel celebrating this day takes away from the love we have for each other and the partnership we have created. We’ve put so much effort into cultivating a rich relationship that celebrating Valentine’s day almost feels as if it’s cheapening it. We look at it and think, “Can you imagine needing those accolades and gifts in order to feel loved? Can you imagine taking our romantic cues from a corporate conglomerate that preys upon people’s emotions? Can you imagine investing more into our relationship on one day of the year over any other day?” We’ve been together for about twelve years now and choosing to not celebrate this event has always been a conscious decision and a wonderful symbolic reference point of what we never want our relationship to look like. So, ironically we do appreciate Valentine’s day for that reason. :)
Stuart, so what we are saying is that Valentine’s Day tortures single people and couples alike. So, as a society why do we do this to ourselves?! I think that you nailed it…taking our romantic cues from a corporate conglomerate…and Walt Disney World. I love that you practice gratitude and love EVERY day. I think that is what came into focus for me this year. I may not have a significant other, but I am surrounded by people that love me and I need to recognize that every day. Thanks for sharing!
Valentine’s Day for me is a chance to giggle at the absurdity of the roots of this “holiday” and make the ones I love learn about it and laugh (and my students too). This card I made for my kids says it all and they loved it! Nothing says romance like the pagan rituals of animal sacrifice and forced mating and then when the Christians took it over, the beheading of St. Valentine (notice the severed pop up head on the card :)! Let’s not forget the post WWII confectionary companies who started the consumerist frenzy it is today!! Having said all that, I love you Sheri, and I’m glad you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day. I did too! xoxoxo
Thanks Heather, This gives me some real information why I should not take Valentine’s Day seriously. Actually, it’s an indication of why we should not take most things seriously.