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14 February, 2020 11:22:20 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 February, 2020 11:25:55 AM


Is Valentine’s Day important?

The big problem with Valentine’s Day– and indeed days like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Friend’s Day,– is about dedicating a single day of the year to those in love and those maddeningly banal cards espousing the corniest of emotions
Syed Mehdi Momin
Is Valentine’s Day important?

According to this writer For me Valentine ’s Day is just a confected occasion that serves neither married couples, nor singles, nor those, as a different generation once said, who are "courting". I believe that the only people who bask in this public celebration of a private feeling are those who feel they have something to prove. He must love me, they crow on Facebook, because the meal was so expensive! She must love me, they gloat on Instagram, because my gift was so shiny!
On that day someone asked me whether I was a fan of Valentine’s Day. My reply to the person was prompt but before coming to that let me tells the readers about my first introduction to the term. I am not sure but most probably it was 1984. I was 13 and a voracious reader of crime stories-both fiction and non- fiction. I came across a rather long article on the true story of Saint Valentine’s Day massacre. On February 14, 1929 hitmen belonging to Chicago’s infamous crime boss Al Capone gunned down seven member of a rival gang. Before that I didn’t even hear of Valentine’s Day. While my Cristians friends must have known about the significance of the day, I guess most people of my age and even older only had vague idea about the day and what it meant.

After reading the article my curiosity was piqued and I decided to find out more about the day–believe me it was no easy task in those pre-Internet days. However my persistence paid off and I learnt that the day was associated with romantic love in the time of poet Geoffrey Chaucer since High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").
However in Bangladesh I hardly saw anyone celebrating the day with any fervour until the early 1990s.  At that time Archie’s and Hallmark opened shop here. Exchanging cards, small gfts, cards and chocolates became popular among young couples in love. And of course having romantic dinners at good restaurants. Soon the older married couples joined in the fun. There was this Bangla magazine–now defunct–which for reasons I have not yet been able to fathom, decided to make the celebration of Valentine’s Day in a big way their mission. And it was with missionary zeal that the magazine published seeral issues dedicated to the hitherto little known occasion in Bangladesh.  However Valentine’s Day really took off in a big way in this millennium. It is in the last fifteen years that the popularity of the day became phenomenal.

 Coming back to the question posed to me–well, I answered in the negative. Like some I do not consider celebrating Valentine’s Day as patronsising ‘opshonskriti’ or invasion of foreign culture. In a modern society people must have the right to adopt any culture they like–of course within reason. If someone prefers listening to the Material Girl rather than Runa Laila, it is their choice. If someone prefers reading Harold Robbins rather than Humayun Ahmed, well Bangladesh is supposed to be a free country. I simply can’t believe that celebrating this day represents a dire threat to traditional Bengali values and represent part of a conspiracy by the West to destroy our culture. And in no way do I oppose Valentine’s Day simply because it is associated with Christian theology.

Yet I do have problems. My big problem with Valentine’s Day– and indeed days like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Friend’s Day,– and so on and so forth is dedicating a single day of the year to those in love. And those maddeningly banal cards with espousing the corniest of emotions. Isn’t love supposed to be something that ought to be cherished everyday? And if for some reason one doesn’t feels like giving the partner plastic or even fresh flowers come February 14 is that person committing a crime.

And what about the countless single men and women. The whole Valentine’s Day paraphernalia is a disappointing reminder to them that they don't have that "special someone" in their life. Then there are those drama queens. I mean those single people who use the day as an excuse to whine about their pathetic lives. It’s really painful listening to a single friend blabbering on about how they are never going to find true love.

For married people too the day can be a curse. Someone told me “I’ve been married 15 years and I still feel the stress to “make something extravagant happen” on Valentine’s Day. The pressure doesn’t come from my wife, but from everyone else who asks me (and my wife gets similar questions, too), “What big surprise are you planning for your wife this year?” “How many roses is she getting this year?” “You know girls love diamonds, are you giving her some?” And on and on. The second she or I hint at doing something “low-key” on Valentine’s Day, the eyes start to roll.”

 It is said that that the event started out as a special day intended to bring couples together. Maybe, but it has been transformed into a commercial spectacle peddled to us by florists, greeting card companies, jewelry stores and makers of stuffed animals. Of course I have nothing against being romantic or expressing your feelings to the person you love. However why one should be being required to do so on February 14? This date has absolutely zero connection to us. The hoopla around the day has become so big that each year on February 14 we are in essence commanded to be romantic. I am actually surprised that why more people don’t consider Valentine's Day as artificial, contrived and absurdly overly commercialised.

And at times I am freaked out by the obsession with the colour red. There are red balloons, hearts and teddy bears everywhere. Just for your information in many parts of the world, blue is considered to be the colour of love. It symbolises trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven, technically everything you want from love.

Apparently al every channel from the on V-Day is awash with red and all of their content is about love. Why do we have to suffer through all of that when all we want to do is to watch is a good action flick.

And just by the way Valentine's Day has a muddled history. Some historians claim it was created in 469 when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 a day to honour St. Valentine.  One legend contends that Valentine was a Christian martyr executed for standing up to the Roman emperor who wanted to ban soldiers from getting married. Yet another tale claims he was executed because of his Christian beliefs and signed his farewell note to his beloved: "From Your Valentine."

Personally speaking we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. We do give each other gifts any time of the year.  If my wife goes to the mall to by some household stuff and come upon an after shave I like she may buy it for me. I may do a similar thing. Of course we celebrate our birthdays. Never too flashy. We do celebrate our togetherness on our anniversary. We believe that a couple’s marriage day or the day the two met or some such significant days are the ones to observe.

The writer is the Senior Assistant Editor at The Independent




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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