Valentine's Day, I love you not

By Lee Hannon (
Updated: 2011-02-21 15:15
Large Medium Small

Somewhere in the world there is a gigantic warehouse stacked to the ceiling with my undelivered mail. It must be costing a fortune to store years of missing flowers, crates of expensive luxury heart-shaped chocolates, and bags filled with anonymous greeting cards from secret lovers declaring their undying lust.

For some unknown reason the delivery guy can never find me on Feb 14 each year, more commonly known as Valentine’s Day across the world. And this past week was no exception. It must be disappointing to my hordes of admirers to suffer the indignity of unrequited love. Don't blame me. Shoot the messenger.

But even if I stopped dreaming for a second and accepted the reality that not since high school have I been sent a single Valentine’s greeting, it wouldn’t change a thing. I still think it is the most pointless festival since National Gherkin Week.

And I am not alone in my anti-Valentinism. Critics of the world's day for lovers fall into two categories. You're either anti-consumerist and believe the day is just another excuse for the people at Hallmark to steal our hard-earned cash, or you object to forced observation of romantic love.

There are 365 days a year to show someone you care, why is Feb 14 so special? Anyone in a long-term relationship will tell you that ensuring both parties are in the mood for love on any one night of the year is like betting on Elvis Presley turning up alive and well in a bar in Tianjin.

And it is not as if historians agree on the origins and significance of Cupid's original arrow.

According to one story, St Valentine, a Roman priest, was killed for secretly marrying true lovers during the reign of Emperor Claudius in the 3rd century. The emperor had banned marriages because men were reluctant to join his army due to the fact they may have to leave their wives and family to fight.

Despite the emperor’s draconian law, St Valentine continued to marry couples who whispered their vows to the priest to avoid being caught by soldiers. One night his secret ceremony was discovered - the couple escaped, but Valentine was thrown into jail and sentenced to death. He became a cause celebre for young lovers, who would throw flowers and notes through his jail window stating they, too, believed in love. He died in the year 269 on Feb 14.

And so the story goes, more than 200 years after Valentine's death, Pope Gelasius decided to honor St Valentine on Feb 14 by naming him the patron saint of lovers.

I shudder to think what St Valentine would think of how we celebrate his legacy today. For most men, Feb 14 means remembering to book a table at a restaurant, but forgetting to buy flowers and a card, which are then purchased on the way to the meal after borrowing a pen to write a lame message inside.

And it's not just men who secretly loathe what Valentine's Day has become.

Over dinner recently with a female friend I was regaled with what I thought to be the most magical Valentine's Day story I had ever heard.

A limo picked up Sarah, took her to a penthouse suite of a five-star hotel, where a bottle of champagne was waiting on ice along with a personal masseur to pamper her while favorite songs played in the background. Sarah's boyfriend Edward turned up later, all smiles.

Sounds spectacularly romantic. "So why do you hate Valentine's Day?" I asked. She snorted: "I later found out he slept with the hotel receptionist while I was being massaged."

Even in China, where Valentine's Day is celebrated more than Christmas, tens of thousands of people have used micro blogs and social networking sites to voice their lack of desire for the so-called special day.

One protester in Changsha held a banner reading: "We are trying to send a wake-up call to those who over-consume on Western festivals. The value of our own tradition is on the edge of disappearance while they spend money like water on meaningless occasions."

And the Chinese certainly have it worse: Remember it is just over 150 days to Qi Xi, where the whole business will be repeated in tune with the lunar calendar.

A few days after dinner with Sarah, I bumped into her ex-boyfriend Edward and discreetly asked about what I had been told. He winked, smiled and said: "Valentine, it's all vice disguised as virtue."

The author is a copy editor with the China Daily website.