Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine's Day Screed

We think, as a nation, that a true division of Us vs. Them is whether one says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." However, I disagree. I think it's Valentine's Day.

Go ahead: start a conversation with your co-workers and see how many opinions pop right up there. Some think it an artificial holiday, while others blame Hallmark or florists for the emphasis on romantic love on a single day of the year.

I'll tell you right up front: I think it's a little hyped — but that's America for you. If we as a group love something in this country, it's turned up to 11. It's not just everything you want, but MORE! Diamonds, roses, edible pan — er, anyway, VD (as I like to call it) is ratcheted up as high as the market will go. On that day, everything costs more and is in short supply. Dinner reservations are rare, flowers had to have been ordered weeks in advance and no one can find a heart-shaped anything within a 5-mile radius.

Not that I haven't benefited from the day. On our first Valentine's Day together, David made me dinner and hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries. His office was closed on that snowy and icy day, but mine wasn't — and that gave David the day to prepare my feast. It was a total surprise, and it was lovely. (Actually, we have our own special Valentine's Day: we met on February 11, 2006, so when we celebrate the anniversary of our meeting, we actually get to "beat the rush," so to speak.)

But this doesn't change the fact that I think VD is totally hyped in this country — as is every other holiday that benefits merchants. It's their job to make us believe we can't live without that super-duper box of fireworks for Independence Day (don't get any ideas, David!) or that floral arrangement on Mother's Day. How about that "perfect gift" at Christmas? Did you notice how the prices go up and the availability goes down? Whose idea is that?

Does that make the holiday bad? No. What makes it bad is when we fall for the hype and spend beyond our means or comfort level.

Then there are those who fight against the idea of holidays. I hear mothers all over the nation tell their families to celebrate them every day, and that's a nice idea. Let's keep Christmas in our hearts all year 'round. Don't save the tofu turkey for only one day a year. Startle the neighbors by lighting fireworks in August. (Just don't hide eggs in the summer — the FDA would blanch.)

However, I like the idea of holidays. I like that we all agreed to celebrate community and togetherness at Thanksgiving. Easter is a time of hope and renewal. Halloween is fun, despite half the nation deciding it's "Dress Like a Trollop Day" and donning clothing accordingly. (Note the lack of "e" on the end of the word: I doubt anyone wants to dress like a 19th century novelist. Not as much cleavage.)

Holidays give us opportunities to focus on that which is important to us. And we should decide how we will celebrate. Maybe on February 14, you can take your friends out to lunch or make them dinner to remind them how special they are to you. Perhaps you'll make heart-shaped cookies and pass them out at work because you spend so much time with these people, you have to admit they have a place in your heart. Maybe you have a boyfriend or wife and you want to give them those dozen long-stemmed red roses.

Hate the holiday if you want, or turn it into something that is special to you. Ignore it, if the mood strikes you. Just do what you want. After all, isn't that what holidays are for?

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