Thursday, February 10, 2011

St. Valentine's Day Revisited

Traditions are important threads in the cloth of life. Many are celebrated annually as is our old friend St. Valentine's Day. Although the day's significance has evolved from its pagan roots, most of us take the time to send a card, make a phone call, or send flowers or chocolates to loved ones. Thoughts of romantic candlelit dinners with champagne and truffles, bubble baths and rose petals, and the undivided attention of someone very special occupy the minds of many of us. The commercialization of this special day sees the price of roses skyrocket, the sales of boxed chocolates soaring, and the sending of cards with sentiments of love flying off the shelves and crowding the mailboxes.

I was discussing my thoughts about this week's column with a dear friend and telling him how I want to write about Valentine's Day from a different angle this year. This column after all marks my 150th essay on a variety of etiquette driven topics in this paper and some fresh ideas are in order. Two thoughts emerged during our conversation. One thought was that for those of us who are truly single, Valentine's Day might be a day where we do something for ourselves to reinforce the love we have for "me". At first this idea was somewhat startling, but as I began to think about it, this makes perfect sense. After all, no matter what the situation, we must love ourselves before we can truly love someone else. In that case, treat yourself to a spa treatment. Buy yourself some fresh flowers to brighten up your home. Indulge a little by doing something special for yourself.

The second thought that surfaced was the idea that the real celebration is about the union of two hearts, two souls, and two people with a special inseparable bond. My experience is that we shower special gifts on those we love as a way of expressing our love for another person. What about celebrating the bond itself? Here is a chance to recognize the magic that you have created. Let that special dinner or gift giving moment be a time where gratitude is shown for the results of your love for one another. Let's face it, life is not always a bed of roses or a box of chocolates. Today we make an effort to change all that. After all, this 'magic' that we share is what gives meaning to our lives; it provides us with our greatest accomplishments - our children; and it fills our hearts with gratitude, compassion, respect, and love.

Every year at this time; however, my mind is transported back to grade school. Here we first learned about the concept of sharing on an emotional level with our classmates. We were atwitter with excitement when the cards we had all signed were passed around. I am not suggesting that any of us really understood the significance of the day, but we were becoming aware that something was 'up'. It was in the second grade school room for me when I first remember caring who sent me a card. Almost everyone did, but I would pour over my cards seeing if there was some special word or hint that a secret admirer would have divulged. As I recall I did convince myself then, as I still do today, that a certain unsigned card was sent to me from a certain someone special. When we stop and think about it, there are many people whom we have sent Valentine wishes to in one form or another over the years. Men give cards to their daughters, mothers, and even grandmothers or favorite aunts; chocolates and roses and even jewelry to their wives; and the odd unsigned card to someone they admire from a distance. Women, who tend to remember the date more consistently, love 'surprising' their husbands or boyfriends, fathers and sons, and other special people in their lives with romantic cards as well as a full range of other fun things.

Whatever you decide to do, speak from the heart. And remember that the sentiments that you care to convey on this special day can be carried throughout the year!