Of all the celebration days during the year, Valentine’s Day is arguably one of the most commercialized; one of the more makey-uppy ones. Although not as makey-uppy as yesterday’s “Get a Different Name Day” which coincided with “Madly in Love with Me Day” (what, you mean you missed both of those?). At least Valentine’s Day has a history and traditions and provides an excuse to eat chocolate.
But the cool kids don’t really celebrate V-day do they?
People ask “Are you doing anything for Valentine’s Day?” And the stock answer is “Oh no, we never go out for it. Too busy, too expensive, it’s all just marketing anyway”
My now-husband and I went out twice on February 14th ; once to the cinema, to see the very unromantic but hilarious* Dude Where’s My Car (*may have been hilarious due to drinks before movie). The year after that, we booked a table in our favourite restaurant. It was a mistake. The food didn’t seem as a good as it usually was. We were so close to the people beside us, I could have dipped my chips in their ketchup without either of us noticing. And we had to give the table back after an hour, because the restaurant was doing not two but three sittings that night.
After that, we stayed in. We became the “Oh no, we never go out for Valentine’s Day” people. We aspired to be the cool kids who didn’t celebrate it at all, but at the last minute every year, a card or flowers or chocolates would become too tempting to walk past. And any excuse to cook a nice dinner and open a bottle of wine is welcome; once the obligatory criticism of commercialised celebrations had been dispensed with, we felt free to indulge.
And then came kids. And suddenly it all changed again. My children have been making Valentine’s Cards for three weeks now. They baked a Valentine’s cake. They can’t understand why there isn’t a day off school and work for this monumental occasion. They have been looking forward to February 14th since New Year’s Day. And we just go with it.
That’s the thing with kids; all the annual feast days take on a whole new meaning when children come into the equation. Christmas: no elaboration needed. Birthdays: ditto. Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Pancake Tuesday, Mother’s Day, Easter; occasions that in the past may have warranted something small to mark the day (in the case of Halloween: hiding in a back room with the lights off) suddenly become huge on the calendar, with weeks and weeks of excited planning (and more card making – I think Hallmark may have been invented by children). And it’s lovely. It makes them happy, it seems to give a focus and structure to their year, and of course, it’s good for bribes.
And that’s why we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day in my house today – with homemade cards and a jam-filled cake (“red for Valentines mum!”), and lots of kisses.
And then as a very special treat, my husband and I will allow ourselves to skip the endurance test that is dinner with the kids. We will have steak and chips. After they’ve gone to bed of course. Huddled on the sofa like kids having a midnight feast behind our parents’ backs. And we’ll have wine. And we’ll have cake. And we won’t feel an ounce of guilt. I’m sure it’s exactly what Saint Valentine would have wanted.