Day of candy, roses or the lack thereof

I wasn’t going to write about it. I was just going to let it slip by, unannounced and unrecognized. But it’s a difficult holiday to ignore and since it fell exactly on the same date this column was scheduled to run, it was unavoidable.

Valentine’s Day. A pink and red world filled with roses, candy and fluffy teddy bears. A barrage of radio and TV commercials warning men that without a gift of jewelry, the woman in their life won’t realize that they’re loved.

I never liked Valentine’s Day. Well, back in elementary school it was fun – constructing a colorful mailbox to tape to your desk and everyone was required to insert little preprinted valentines into each one. And, of course, there was lots of candy.

In college, I wasn’t a big fan. My weeks-long or months-long romances never seemed to stretch into February, so there were never any gondola rides or candlelight dinners. Occasionally there were flowers from a well-intentioned suitor, but that was about it. By the time I was married, the expectations were too high. Bah humbug, we decided – we don’t need Hallmark to tell us when we should be romantic.

And now that day is back once again. True to my dating style, I recently ended a short relationship so I have no valentine.

I guess my timing is off. Feb. 14 is the one day of the year when, if you’re single, all the hype can make you feel unloved, even if you’re surrounded by family and friends who have proven their love throughout the year by giving much more than a box of chocolates.

What is Valentine’s Day? According to the dictionary, it’s observed in honor of a martyr of the third century.

And who was this Valentine? A Christian martyr of Rome. Whew, yeah, that’s it – I choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day because it’s not part of my religion.

In India this year, one of the political parties wanted to invoke a ban preventing shops and establishments from selling greeting cards on Valentine’s Day, claiming it to be against Indian traditions.

“If Americans do not celebrate Rakshabandhan, why should we celebrate Valentine’s Day?” asked the party’s president.

Exactly! (Although I do think that the ban is going a bit too far. By the way, that holiday is a festival in India celebrating brotherhood.)

I think what bothers me most about Valentine’s Day is that it places the emphasis not on love itself, but on romance. Is it so important that you be involved romantically with somebody on that one day? It’s so arbitrary – why don’t we feel bad if we’re not in a relationship on May 3 or Aug. 21?

Remember, it could always be worse. Scanning the Web, I found an article that gave a brief history of how the holiday was first celebrated.

Although everything is rosy and chocolatey now, centuries ago, single women were flogged in the street with raw goat meat on Valentine’s Day, something to do with a pagan fertility ritual.

I wouldn’t have minded being left out of that celebration.

I think the people celebrating the holiday most joyously are those in the candy, florist and greeting card industries.

According to the Greeting Card Association, Americans will spend more than $937 million on one billion Valentine’s Day cards this year.

Last year in the United States, $1.09 billion of candy was sold for Valentine’s Day, according to the National Confectioners Association. More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold this year, according to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association.

That’s a lot of chocolate.

It’s difficult to ignore Valentine’s Day and it’s going to come around every year. If you don’t have a valentine, don’t worry, and there’s no need to become bitter – there’s plenty of chocolate for everybody.

This article first appeared in the Feb. 14, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

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