There will be a celebration in our house tonight. The lamb is already in the oven, the wine left to breathe (some would say that this is rubbish but I like the ritual about it) and our grown up sons will be here any minute now.
What? No romantic meal for two? – I hear you gasp.
Well no. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s. After a fledgling Attempt at it several years back this holiday drifted into obscurity in our house.
Before you make up your mind about this one, please hear me out.
I’m not a killjoy; I’m not a spoil-sport. I like celebrating as much as – if not more than – the next person.
I love John (for more recent readers, John is my long suffering husband) dearly; he loves me too.
We have chosen not to celebrate Valentine’s because we are experienced enough to know that:
Love is Not an Event
You know, when I still lived in Bulgaria I hated the 8th of March with passion. This is the International Women’s Day and celebrated by ‘communist’ regimes. You could see men – different ages, classes and status – carrying roses. Some men carried two bouquets: one for their wife and one for their mistress.
What I’m saying is that people’s love for each other is not communicated through routine gestures occurring once or twice per year.
Love is not an event; love is a process of discovery, a string of little signs that even our consciousness may ignore.
I don’t need John to buy me flowers, a card and a gift for Valentine’s to know that he loves me. I know he does because:
- He leaves me to sleep when I’m tired.
- He remembers my favourite brand of chocolate.
- He thinks that I can do no wrong (in fact, from time to time I sit him down and remind him about my failings).
- He knows what makes me happy better than I do.
So there. If you love someone you learn to read their needs and desires and take pleasure in meeting these.
Love is not an even; it is a process of discovery and acceptance.
Consumerism is a Selfishness in a Guise
You already know where I stand on the matter of consumerism. I really think that consumerism – which the frenzy around Valentine’s and other holidays is in its purest form – is not only irrational behaviour; it is also very selfish.
Consumerism is irrational because it is about acquiring stuff not about using it. Most consumerists pay for stuff they throw away and/or keep in a wardrobe. This is not good for your wallet.
Even worse, this is not good for the planet. Over-consumption exhausts natural resources and originates mostly in our ‘developed’ world. It also increases inequality: yep, we live in a world where 20% of the population is over-weight and 80% under-nourished. Come people, we can get this one tight!
This is why, I’d call on my readers to forego the Valentine’s presents and even the restaurant meal. I bet you can think of something to do that will show your partner that you love them and won’t entail more consumption.
Occasions are Made by Knowing the Other
You see, going out is great. But is this what your partner really wants?
You know, John will remember only one birthday present from me. During our 25 years together, I’ve given him clothes, electronics and happenings. Only once I bought him a flying lesson – I knew that this is something he would love to do.
The best present you could ever make your partner is to continually discover them. Don’t stop after three years together: people change and so do their yearning.
Figure out your partners most secret yearning and create an occasion around it.
How’s this for a declaration of love?
This is why John and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s.
Now let me tell you what we’ll be celebrating tonight.
February, 14th is not only St Valentine; it is also St Trifon’s day.
Let me tell you about St Trifon
St Trifon was martyred during the Roman persecution of Early Christianity. Sad story, really. Except that the Christians of the East didn’t want to remember him as the broken, sad figure he became. So, they allocated him the day of Dionysus – the Ancient Greek god of grape harvest, wine making, madness, fertility and theatre.
In Bulgaria, February 14th is known as St Trifon Zarezan and this is when people drink the wine from the year before and put the foundation of the new grape harvest by starting to cut the vines.
Tonight we are celebrating with our sons; not St Valentine’s but St Trifon. This should be fun!
Oh dear, I really need to go and get the lamb out of the oven. Cheers!