Valentine’s Day has become a consumerist explosion of teddy bears and restaurant offers, with so much obligation to ‘be romantic’ that many people feel resentful about celebrating at all. However, St Valentine’s Day was originally a more natural celebration, based around the day that medieval birdwatchers thought birds started mating. It was deemed a time of joy because spring is in the air, similar to February’s festival of fertility that harked back to Roman times.
I don’t believe that love is something to be celebrated on an arbitrary day in set ways. To me, showing appreciation for your partner, yourself or whatever else you love is something that can be done at any time. I’ve been to restaurants on Valentine’s Day and seen too many couples immersed in their phones, clearly dining out under duress, to think it’s necessarily a romantic choice.
However, I do have a soft spot for some of the traditions. In medieval times, people would write love poems; and in Victorian times, people would make their own cards using doilies and magazine scraps. Writing a poem or making a card seems to show more affection than buying one with a pre-written message, saving money while creating a more personalised memory.
If you’re sentimentally inclined, making a memory book with your partner, including ticket stubs, photos and whatever else reminds you of your relationship, can be a fun way to spend an evening remembering happy times together (hopefully avoiding any old rows resurfacing).
Regardless of your romantic status, I think spring is something to be celebrated: a time of renewal, growth and saying goodbye to the dark days of winter. A bowl of bulbs can be much more uplifting than cut (overpriced) roses – particularly as the flowers start to bloom. And there’s no reason you need a partner to eat well: take advantage of the Valentine’s special offers to enjoy a luxury meal on a budget (with the added bonus that you don’t have to share your chocolates with anyone).
And show your love for nature by feeding the ducks, litter picking, or planting a tree (The Woodland Trust is giving them away seeds at the moment). If you have a partner, you can dedicate a tree to them and help protect our woodland too.
Of course, there’s no need to celebrate Valentine’s Day at all. However, the world needs more love and today is as good a day as any to show that you care.