Sparkly, Gluten-free Love, and other Reasons we may not get Valentine’s Day Quite Right

I don’t care much for Valentine’s Day. And it’s not just because I spent two days crafting sparkly paper sharks with working clothespin jaws to hold packages of Goldfish crackers for my children to give to their classmates, only to receive a note home the day before the party reminding parents that treats must be peanut and gluten free and all treat labels must be submitted to the school two weeks in advance.

Stupid shiny sharks.

I don’t actually have a problem with expressing love with a sweet note or a gift. I think remembering to do that from time to time can be really important in a relationship.

And I know Americans will do our fair share of celebrating. In fact, according to a recent National Retail Federation poll, we plan to spend an average of $133.91 on candy (peanut and gluten free, approved two weeks in advance), cards, and gifts, which translates to about $13.7 billion as a nation. A poll by the American Express Spending and Saving Tracker predicts the total will be closer to $37 billion and that half of American engagements for the entire year will occur on Valentine’s Day.

The whole thing stems from the legend of St. Valentine, a 3rd Century priest who was beheaded by command of Roman Emperor Claudius II. Known as Claudius the Cruel, the emperor had strong military aspirations, but was alarmed to find that his soldiers didn’t always share his enthusiasm. He decided the reason must be that their hearts, and their attentions, were at home with their families. The solution was simple. He banned marriage.

Claudius II, the first man to throw an "I hate Valentine's Day" party. By =*File:5305 - Brescia - S. Giulia - Ritratto di Claudio II il Gotico - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, 25 Giu 2011.jpg: Giovanni Dall'Orto.  derivative work: Cristiano64 [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
Claudius II, the first man to throw an “I hate Valentine’s Day” party. By Brescia – S. Giulia – Ritratto di Claudio II il Gotico – Foto Giovanni Dall’Orto, 25 Giu 2011.jpg: Giovanni Dall’Orto. derivative work: Cristiano64 [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
As you can imagine, this didn’t sit well with the young lovers of Rome, many of whom appealed to St. Valentine to marry them in secret. A sucker for romance, Valentine did marry them. Lots of them. Until Claudius found out and had the priest beheaded on February 14, 270-ish.

Okay, I admit, that’s kind of a cool story of standing up for love in the face of a blood-thirsty emperor. It’s the kind of heroic thing that ought to be commemorated. Of course, if the legend is true, and since there were at least three different saints named Valentine, and it’s not entirely clear which the story is attributed to, let’s just say it’s suspicious, then there’s still the reality that February 14th is the day in which the champion of love was beheaded.

I suppose that by celebrating love on a dark day, we honor the man who died for his belief in it. But when I think about what the legend really suggests, that love and the commitment of marriage and family is worthwhile, I’m not sure we’re celebrating it right.

 photo credit: Pink and orange roses via photopin (license)
I honestly don’t think I can listen to another commercial about how even if I say I don’t want roses for Valentine’s Day, I really do want roses for Valentine’s Day, without wanting to hit someone over the head with that free glass vase.
photo credit: Pink and orange roses via photopin (license)

If we are to believe commercials, sitcoms, and Lifetime movies (and why wouldn’t we?), then Valentine’s Day is an incredibly stressful holiday. If you have a special someone in your life, then we are led to believe that your actions, or inactions, on February 14th will make or break your relationship. If you happen not to have a special someone to send you overpriced roses, then you are required to spend the day horribly depressed. Even my seven-year-old is stressed about the day, concerned that if he gives his Valentine sharks to the little girls in his 2nd grade class, “it might give them false hope.”

I just don’t think all the crazy to-do is what the St. Valentine legend is all about. Instead, I think it’s about recognizing the kind of love that demands commitment and hard work, that requires two people to grow and change together, to consider one another always, and to demonstrate appreciation for one another without prodding from a greeting card commercial.

We are going to be eating these things for a very, very long time.
We are going to be eating these things for a very, very long time.

Now I’m not going to throw an “I Hate Valentine’s Day” party and I certainly don’t fault you if you’re among those who will be spending $133.91 (plus a little more to make up for my considerably smaller contribution). I did spend two days constructing sparkly shark Valentines and I will probably find some small way to acknowledge the day because I own a heart-shaped pan and Valentine’s Day really is the one time each year when I get to use it.

Perhaps I’ll bake a peanut- and gluten-free cake and then my family will know that I love them. Or maybe it will be a heart-shaped, gluten-filled extra gooey chewy brownie with peanut butter frosting.

13 thoughts on “Sparkly, Gluten-free Love, and other Reasons we may not get Valentine’s Day Quite Right

  1. Yes I’ve seen you blush a time or two. I’m like you(don’t faint) if your whole relationship depends on giving your loved one a gift on Valentine’s day, it’s on shaky ground. I don’t remember my father giving my mother so much as a card for Valentines. However they were married for 60 years and cared so much for one another that when my father was in the hospital dying, my mother got so upset that she had a heart attack and died 6 weeks before he did.
    I never heard either one of them ever say I love you, they never told me that either, but we knew we were loved and cared about because of their actions. That’s how I grew up.
    Now I probably say I love you too much but I tell my friends that, I tell my children that and I always told my wives (yes wives) that. Some people need it. I don’t. But I’ll send Valentine cards to girlfriends(you know there are multiples) and bring flowers to my co-workers tomorrow.
    Just because I love them. So Happy Valentines Sarah and yes of course I love you, but don’t tell the big guy, he may come after me. 🙂
    Valentines still might be a commercial scam but it’s good to tell your friends you love them and they are important.

    1. Absolutely! Valentine’s Day is certainly a good excuse to spread the love. Of course love is an even better excuse to spread the love. And don’t worry about my man. He’s very confident in general, and is particularly secure in my love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Those sparkly sharks are awesome! You can send one my way if you can’t give them out in class. I love peanuts! And gluten! And I won’t be getting roses from my hubby – but I did buy tickets to a sparkling wine festival in the Willamette Valley, so I’m sure I’ll spend at least my $133.91 (and yours). 🙂

    1. Thanks! The treat policy is frustrating, but I get it. I do wish my son had remembered to bring home the note a little sooner, or that I had remembered the policy myself. Oh well. It all worked out. And they had fun at their parties.

      1. That’s a much bigger question, Sam. I suspect the way we celebrate Valentine’s Day reflects a larger societal misunderstanding of love, but that’s too much to tackle in a blog post, I think. Well, maybe not for your blog…I look forward to reading your thoughts, perhaps.

  3. Pingback: Their words have meaning | John's garret

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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