The average person spent $131 on Valentine’s Day in 2013, according to Wikipedia.
I’m not going to share this fact with my husband. I don’t want him to be disappointed when he opens the construction paper card I made him.
You can tell, right there, how I feel about Valentine’s Day. I’ve never liked the pressure surrounding the pink-festooned holiday. As a kid, I obsessed over the handmade Valentine from my latest boy crush, dissecting every word on the attached candy heart like it was Shakespeare.
Was there some hidden meaning behind “URA 10”? Did he single out that one candy heart, just for me, rifling through the “You’re sweet” and “Pucker up” options? What did it all mean?
And would I be poisoned if I ate the candy heart right off the card, glue and all?
As a teenager and college student, the pressure was stifling. What you gave and received on Christmas was important, but what you exchanged on Valentine’s Day was the litmus test of a relationship. How many roses and how much chocolate could a student afford on her budget?
We can blame Geoffrey Chaucer, not only for making many college literature majors slog through his “Canterbury Tales” but also for being the first to associate St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love. In the Anglican Church, St. Valentine’s Day commemorates the martyrdom of several priests named Valentine. One of them was supposedly killed for performing marriages of soldiers, a practice banned under Emperor Claudius, who thought unmarried men made better soldiers. In the 5th century, Feb. 14 became earmarked as the official day of St. Valentine.
We may think that Hallmark began the whole commercial racket of valentine cards, but in actuality the cards have been around for more than 400 years and were made popular during the age of courtly love. When the British came to America, they brought love, and Valentine’s Day, with them.
Today, around 1 million valentine cards are sent by mail, and that doesn’t include those snazzy perforated sheets of valentines that kids exchange at school.
Knowing the history has helped shift my feelings on Valentine’s Day. Sure, some may turn it into a day of diamonds and edible arrangements, but at its root, it’s a day of love shown through sacrifice.
That’s a holiday I can get behind.
This year for Valentine’s Day, my four children and I will be performing in a stage production of “Pippi Longstocking.” My husband’s act of love is to stand up on the catwalk and operate the spotlight, shining light on the family members he loves best.
He’ll illuminate my 5-year-old, playing the Strongest Man in the World; and my 9-year-old, who doubles as a pirate and Mr. Nilsson's (the monkey) handler. And he’ll illuminate me, his crazy wife who decided to step back onto the stage after 17 years away, and who is having the time of her life singing and acting with her boys.
My parents and sister, who are flying cross-country for the production, will be there, as well as neighbor friends and running pals and church buddies, cheering us on.
Backstage, the prop specialists and costume specialists, all community volunteers, will be switching out police hats, dabbing makeup and filling a massive plaster cake with whipped cream.
If all the world is a stage, and we are just actors upon it, then it seems appropriate that the community would come together on St. Valentine’s Day to produce this play. It is a reminder to me that love is not a single event, a dozen roses or a lacy card. It is constant. It is communal. And it is expansive.
If we can express those sentiments to neighbors, classmates, friends and family members, then it's a day worth celebrating.
Whether or not you do it on a stage, well, that part is optional.