Valentine’s day is a holiday I have never liked, although me saying so was always met with “You say that because you’re single”. Now I am not single, having found my Mr Knightley at last, I still don’t like it. In fact, I like it even less. To be honest, it’s not even that I don’t like the day. One of the legends around St Valentine (popularised by a Medieval book) is that he would marry Christians when the state outlawed it, and I’m all behind remembering a martyr of the Church, and one who celebrated married love at a time of persecution seems a great thing to do if you are married, engaged or called to marriage whatever your state in life. It’s the consumerism and the compulsion that goes along with it that I don’t like.
It happens that I bought a small thing for Valentine’s Day to my Mr Knightley. There is a typical kind of Italian chocolates, the sale of which skyrockets around February 14th, but the reason why they became a Valentine’s Day present is a coincidence: my mother had a gift for him to thank him for contributing to my Christmas hamper, and the next time I will see him is when he comes to London to take me to see Austentation, which was my birthday present, which happens on the 13th of February. I really just wanted him to have the chocolates. This seems to have made me a bit more relaxed about my “no Valentine’s Day” programme.
It made me stop and reflect on whether I was turning into an annoying, holier-than-thou kind of person to those who celebrate Valentine’s Day. It made me think of people who live separate lives for whom a special occasion can be a great way to show their love in trying circumstances, and who aren’t just awkwardly sitting in an overpriced restaurant because that’s what couples do when you can see miles away they should have broken up years ago, or who can’t really afford to make every day Valentine’s day the way my smug self thinks things should be.
My Mr Knightly, like me, isn’t into Valentine’s Day for similar reasons, and the fact he intends to mark Ash Wednesday with me means a lavish dinner is off the cards anyway. In a way, as a Christian couple journeying together, the idea that Lent starts on the same day as Valentine’s Day is a sobering reminder of what our journey means: we’re not here to indulge ourselves in our googly eyes and soppy conversations, we are here to build the kingdom of God; for some of us, this will be through building our families. We don’t know yet what the future will bring for us as a couple, but the coincidence of the date of our first Valentine’s day together makes it impossible to forget who it is that we owed our love first, before we give it to each other.
And, ironically, the fact we cannot go out for a 3 course meal after bingeing on chocolates all day, makes me more inclined to see Valentine’s Day as something nice to mark. It removes the consumerism from it, and it removes the compulsion of having to do something to mark the day: there isn’t much we can do on a day of fasting anyway. Whether the legends are true or pure fiction (a lot of what we associate with the day seems to come from Chaucer), we know that Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire (two burial places for two Valentinus, martyr actually exist, we just don’t know much about them…). It’s not unrealistic that they would have had clandestine weddings, whoever celebrated them. The freedom to walk into a church that is a grand building and not a catacomb, and the freedom to have a big church wedding with all the trimmings without risking your life is something worth celebrating to me.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Valentine’s Day”. Find the rest of the series here.