In less than a week, we will celebrate Valentine’s Day. I read this morning that Americans are projected to spend just short of 20 billion dollars on the holiday this year. That includes the purchase of candy, flowers, jewelry and other gifts, cards, and/or a planned evening of dinner and other entertainment.
I can recall, as a child, making Valentine cards in school to take home to mom and dad. We started out, if my memory serves me correctly, drawing a big heart on a piece of red construction paper, then cutting it out with those little plastic scissors with the short blades. Then, we glued them onto a white piece of paper and folded it in half. We then wrote in pencil some greeting like “Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!” The heart inside the card was then adorned with white lace.
Remember those packages of Valentine cards we all purchased and filled out for our classmates? Then, of course, there was the excitement of the Valentine’s Day party, where books and pencils were put away and the afternoon was spent in blissful fun. Moms brought in cupcakes adorned with red and pink icing and those little candy hearts were passed out that said things like “sweet” and “be mine”.
As time went by and I grew up and moved across the country. I carefully selected a store bought greeting card each year to send to my parents two thousand miles away. When I married, I spent a considerable amount of time checking out the displays at different stores to pick out the perfect card for the man who had captured my heart. I’m not alone. An estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards are purchased annually, making this holiday the second most popular card-sending holiday next to Christmas.
My husband and I were not big on elaborate holiday celebrations. We were usually content with a quiet dinner somewhere in town, a card exchange, and of course, the “surprise” of a big red heart filled with an assortment of delightful chocolates. Truth be told, I enjoyed even more the time he and I spent together collaborating on the perfect gifts and cards to present to our kids, and later, our granddaughter, on this holiday of love.
History says Valentine’s Day harbors a dark and sinister beginning, filled with mystery, dating back centuries. For me, it holds memories of loving and being loved. This Valentine’s Day will be my first without my husband. Even though that evokes a great deal of sadness, and my life now lacks the romantic love from a spouse the holiday usually evokes, I am blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who remind me I am loved.
Being loved, though, carries a responsibility of loving in return, and not always those it is easy to love. A simple act of caring and concern reflects the love we are called to show one another. Perhaps we should all reach out to one person who lacks being touched by love with a card or a small gift: the homeless person on a street corner, the forgotten nursing home resident, the neighbor who lost a spouse, this Valentine’s Day.
What does Valentine’s Day mean to you?