Why the Valentine’s Day is good for us

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“Will you be my Valentine?” is a phrase now which we all are so familiar with. It has been used and reused so many times in so many places that it even sounds a bit “tacky” these days. I really don’t know how I would react if someone I met told me, “Will you be my Valentine?” Would I be thrilled, or would I be amused, nor would I enjoy the naiveté of the speaker? I don’t know, because it has been a long time since I heard that phrase and I have no hope that the man I live with will tell me so since I’m way past his Valentine and have graduated from being his wife. 

However, this was a big thing, I must say. I was a 90s kid and grew up watching the Phalguni Pathak songs and the mushy romances and read the Mills, and Boon-s hid between textbooks. It was a “story” to tell in my school if a girl got told, “Will you be my Valentine?” on the 14th of February. No, ours was an all-girls’ convent with strict sisters who administered discipline, and “such things” were dreadfully sinful. But some of us did manage to steal “such things” from our neighbors – an all-boys’ school. 

However, in the last two decades, I have seen a lot of divisive opinions around the country on Valentine’s Day. Political parties dragging couples by the collar and threatening to marry them off or worse – beat them up. People have claimed that “Valentine’s Day” is against the culture of our society; it is not internal to our nation; it has a damaging impact on the young people; it is just another attempt to commercialize foreign concepts. Well, there is another school of thought, more refined than the previously stated ones, that say, “why should there be one particular day of love, why not love every day?”

While in my teens I celebrated, in my early twenties, I was perplexed by these questions, but now I am beginning to form some of my own opinions around them, which I intend to share with you. 

It is absolutely true that Valentine’s Day had nothing to do with India and is not an Indian concept. So should all concepts which are not Indian be banished? How about, removing the toilet seat from our bathrooms and replacing them with Indian systems, I’m sure the older generation will be the first ones to complain. Let me not get into the details here. How about wearing a dhoti at the office? Women still wear saree sometimes. 

Here is the thing, Valentine’s Day did not begin in the US and is not an American festival as well. Of course, they made it big, like their giant coke or king-sized whopper burger. Saint Valentine is a third-century saint in Rome, who was martyred and was recognized much later in the fifth century by Pope Gelasius I for the saint’s patronage to betrothed couples, epileptic children, weak travelers who fainted. Even to date, the Feast of Saint Valentine is celebrated in Italy, Ireland, and other countries where the saint’s relics are preserved. It is a pilgrimage to visit his holy remains on the 14th of February, the day he was martyred. His excellent work and love for people, marriage, bees, and the weak were later related to the concept of “romantic love” by none other than the great author Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, England in his “Parlement of Foules.” 

This, together with the pagan fertility festivals in Europe and the bird’s mating season in February, came to be associated with what Valentine’s Day is today, in the 18th century, England — thereby starting a tradition of “showing love.” From hand-written love notes to figurines of Cupid, to greeting cards to dinners and dates and parties, what a journey it has been. 

How can we in India remain far behind? And why should we? We had a lot in the name of love – Bollywood, Khajuraho, Kama Sutra (not in that order), but we never had a “day” to celebrate it. Well, somebody thought of it before we did and banked upon the idea, which became a huge hit. We should have thought before them, then we could have had a copyright on it, and our political leaders would be happy about propagating an “Indian festival.” 

But, the thing is “Valentine’s Day” has not replaced any Indian festival, nor has it impacted any of our existing businesses. Then why is it a problem? It gave rise to a new market for greeting cards. Yes, American companies like Hallmark and American Greetings came to India too. But in 1979, our very own “Archies” came into existence, which is a 1.7 million USD company. Why is that bad, again? 

We have had our local cardmakers, too, which mostly printed ornate cards for weddings and rice ceremonies or other banquet events. But there came a giant Indian company who turned this concept into a grand scale and became a monopoly in the card selling business for birthdays, anniversaries, father’s days, Baby showers, New Year, Christmas, Holi, and whatnot. While the card business is not so flourishing anymore, yet I’m sure and hope Archies will come up with something equally popular.

Not only this, but the Archies cards also popularised another concept – “baby photography” with the little cherubic images of Anne Geddes. Remember her, anyone? If not, you would remember the adorable pictures of babies on Archies cards. With that, a new genre of photography began in India. Every parent of our generation wants to invest in a baby photography session. That certainly is quite a business. And it is amazing. Parents will see that their children can earn money even if they pursued their hobby of photography and don’t need to become an engineer or a doctor necessarily.

Also, Valentine’s Day is quite a business for the hospitality industry. The hotels, night clubs, restaurants are pulsating with energy on this day as the young crowd gathers there. As long as there is sufficient security for everyone, this is great, in my opinion.

Coming to the question of those who think that every day should be celebrated in love? I want to question them, why not celebrate everyday life instead of just our birthdays? After all, we are “living” every day. Why celebrate only marriage anniversaries when every single day intervening two anniversaries are also days spent in marriage? The truth is, we can’t afford to celebrate everyday and celebrations are special on some days only. So why not? 

But here some would say that, is it even essential to celebrate a day of love? As such, no celebrations are that important which we can’t live without. Yet, we do them to be “happy.” Happiness is what we need the most. The happiness that does not adversely impact me or anyone else is always welcome. What is not essential is to spread hatred in the name of moral policing. “Beating people,” severely? How is that not a hate crime

But the thing is that Valentine’s Day does not have Indian roots and our so-called patriotic people aren’t happy. So how about celebrating “Joy of Giving” day on the 5th of September, Mother Teresa’s day of passing? Why not donate gifts, necessities, books, a day of work to those who need them in society? Why not create pamphlets, greeting cards, organize feasts and festivities on that day to spread some more love? Who are we waiting for? The truth is we already have a lot of Indian festivals where we are “supposed” to be spreading the love (not communal hatred), where we are supposed to feed the hungry, donate old clothes. It is just that we have failed to brand some of them adequately, and the message behind having those festivities got lost somewhere. 

In France, they have – the people “choosing” to work on certain public holidays and the salary of that day goes to the unemployed, the old. What do most of us do in our public holidays? If we work on public holidays, we get double pay. I don’t want to be critical, but this goes to those who are critical of someone else’s happiness without trying to spread any themselves.

This Valentine’s Day, let us think of how we can spread love and happiness around us? Many need it. And we can commercialize it too, which is good for the economy if our idea becomes popular. So if you have an idea that makes us happy, without affecting anyone, without causing a traffic jam, sound pollution or environmental damage, please do share and invest in popularizing it. 

Featured Image Credits: Public Domain Pictures

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Readers' Reviews (11 replies)

  1. Hi there, simply become aware of your weblog through Google, and located that it’s truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate for those who proceed this in future. Lots of folks will likely be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

    1. I’m so glad to know this, Thank you for your encouraging words. Please share your suggestions about what you may like to read next!

  2. Thanks for that optimistic article. I love the perspective – If we’re not hurting anyone by celebrating it, why shouldn’t we do it. Thanks for going in to the historical nitty gritty. Hope you have a great Valentine’s Day : )

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