Sharing The Love Around…
As anyone who has walked past a florist, a sweet shop or a stationer can’t fail to have noticed, 14th February was St Valentine’s Day, traditionally dedicated to love and lovers. When I was a teenager, I would rush to the door when the post arrived, to see if there was anything for me. Since I didn’t have any admirers at that time, either secret or otherwise, I was always sadly disappointed; but with the triumph of optimism over experience, I would be back at the front door again, the following year! And then one year, there it was – a big pink envelope with an anonymous card in it. With hindsight, it was probably sent by my parents, but at the time all I knew was the thrill that someone loved me enough to make me their Valentine.
Yesterday, I happened to spot a blog post by writer Elizabeth Hopkinson. She bemoaned the fact that these days, Valentine’s Day is more about celebrating with your already loved one, your significant other if you will and that people who are single can feel left out and isolated. She reminded us that in the 17th Century it was treated more like a ‘Secret Santa’ in that you chose someone from among your friends and acquaintances to be your Valentine for the day and sent them a small gift.
When I worked in Russia and the other former Soviet Union countries, my friends were surprised to hear that Valentine’s Day in this country is only celebrated between couples. Over there it is a time to be together with the whole family. I vividly remember one year when I was in Ukraine on 14th February. The snow was lying thick on the ground. But the local park was packed with families walking with heart shaped balloons, playing games, riding a model train and picnicking in the snow. I even saw one family with a barbecue lit on top of an old tree stump. They treated the day as a chance to get out in the fresh air and enjoy each other’s company in the midst of the cold dark days of winter.
Elizabeth Hopkinson suggests we adopt the 17th Century approach to Valentine’s Day next year and send a secret gift to a friend or acquaintance. And I think I’m with her on that. But additionally, it would be good to take the eastern European approach and share this sense of love in winter with all our friends and family too.