One of my friends is a prominent journalist who writes about politics for several national magazines. He penned a funny op-ed the other year about the consumer pressures of Valentine’s Day and the challenges he experienced trying to find a last minute card and flowers for his wife. I think his readers laughed, but unfortunately his wife didn’t. So I approach criticism of Valentine’s Day with a little trepidation. I don’t want to be viewed as an unromantic pragmatist, but Feb 14th seems to be the quintessential representation of everything wrong with our holidays.
My friend Tripp tells me that celebrating Thanksgiving is the same as condoning the genocide of the people who were native to North America. I tell him that I am not disregarding genocide; to me, the spirit of the celebration is to break from the busyness of the calendar year and give thanks for the health and togetherness of my family. My friend Roy tells me that Christmas is a Pagan holiday; his church doesn’t celebrate Christmas because of its “true origins”. I argue with him that for my clan Christmas is simply atime to remember the birth of Christ (no matter the origins of the holiday) and an opportunity for us to mark that great invasion by giving to (and serving) those in need. I am always anxious that my friend might dig deeper and find that more of our Christian faith practices have some rather auspicious beginnings. It shouldn’t detract from the spiritwith which we observe those days.
Valentine’s Day is actually a “religious” holiday. It is named after an early Christian martyr and was established in 496 AD. It was erased from the religious calendar in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. It initially became associated with romantic love around the time of Geoffrey Chaucer. Today it has become a time when Kroger raises their price of a dozen roses from nine to twenty bucks, when we feel obligated to pay six dollars for a piece of decorated cardboard full of bad poetry, and we succumb to pressures that have nothing to do with the substance of our relationships: actually being together. Simply put, it is another “religious” observation that has lost its heart and been turned into a mad rush for profits. But the same things that people dislike about Valentine’s Day are present at Thanksgiving (darkened by the shadow of Black Friday) and Christmas (in which the celebration of gift-giving has been replaced by the longing for the best deal and the greatest purchase). It seems that the American frenzy to buy, obtain, acquire, and spend, casts it’s shadow over most of the moments of our year that should allow ustime to simply be with one another.
We shouldn’t discount these holidays. As the divorce rate for first marriages in the United States moves closer to the fifty percent mark, I wonder if we are so caught up with our consumption and all we do to fortify our buying power, that we are losing touch with the most important part of our lives — each other. Let’s not throw out another day that reminds us to appreciate the people that bring meaning to our lives. We can argue the merits of all of our observed holidays, but we cannot dispute that consumerism is devouring them one at a time. So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day cards, I say:
Maybe we need to learn to celebrate these days by taking the focus off of spending dollars and instead remember the importance of how we spend our time.
Let’s learn to offer our presence instead of presents…
Those flowers atKroger will be cheaper next week anyway.