Ah, yes. February 14 is, once again, upon us. Every retail outlet in the country, and probably in the majority of the free world, is festooned with pink and red. Cupids have their arrows poised. Hearts from tiny to gargantuan are created with anything from paper to chocolate to wax to … well, you name it! Card shop clerks are ringing up purchases for the first time since the New Year’s rush. And lovers of both the “in a relationship” and “married” variety are, once again, hoping to
score purchase just the right gift — one that is befitting the love of their life, or the moment….
Now, how important, really, is this holiday? Important enough, at least to retailers, that there was an average 4% increase in sales during 2011! There are expectations of an even-greater increase during 2012. Given the state of our economy, no one, including the KH, begrudges anyone an increase in sales. But, does that tell you anything about the goal of all the hoopla surrounding Valentine’s Day? (Hint: It’s not to add value to relationships….)
History.com tells us that “Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the ‘Mother of the Valentine,’ made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as ‘scrap.’ Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.”
No, I didn’t mis-type that and you didn’t mis-read it. It says “an estimated ONE BILLION VALENTINE’S DAY CARDS are sent each year.” Let’s say that the average card costs $2.95. You do the math!
Mint.com tells us that “The National Retail Federation expects that the 35.6% of people who say they plan to take their significant other out that night will spend a collective $3.5 billion, second only to jewelry in terms of holiday expense.”
Just imagine! We haven’t even explored jewelry, Victoria’s Secret, FTD and other sources of floral love, or Build-a-Bear expenses, and we’ve already spent $4.5 billion!
Every time I see one of those TV commercials for Pandora bracelets (or knock-offs), I’m filled with lust. I want one, dammit! Being the erudite person that I am, though, I also reflect on the myth commonly referred to as the story of Pandora’s Box, and I wonder if this holiday of ours is the modern equivalent of same.
Per our friends at Wikipedia, “In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, to create her, so he did—using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many gifts: Athena clothed her, Aphrodite gave her beauty, and Hermes speech.
When Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora toEpimetheus, Prometheus’ brother. With her, Pandora was given a beautiful jar which she was not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her curiosity given to her by the gods, Pandora opened the jar, and all evil contained escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom, which was Hope.”
Most folks I know, other than those newly-and-deeply-in-love (who we won’t count for the purpose of this comparison because they’re, at least temporarily, head over heels in looooove), would just as soon skip right over February 14, as though it never happened. They just never seem to “get it right,” and this applies equally to men as to women. Whatever they buy isn’t good enough, big enough, expensive enough, and surely not anything like what their BFF got his/her husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend! Of course, being the uncommunicative creatures that we are, no one ever dares discuss this with their significant other until after the fact when it’s too late.
To my way of thinking, sweet Esther Howland’s idea of making valentine greetings out of scrap for her dear friends has been turned into the retail equivalent of Pandora’s Box, unleashing hurt feelings, unfulfilled expectations, resentment, jealousy, and all other manner of evil into the world! That’s not even taking into account the spending….
So, here’s what I propose: Personally, I LOVE the IDEA of Valentine’s Day. Single or hooked-up, it’s a neat idea to have one day on which you go out of your way to celebrate your love for someone special. But, let’s get creative, folks! Why not:
- Volunteer together somewhere, then enjoy a great meal that you cook together
- Pack a kick-a** picnic basket and find the nearest romantic outdoor locale at which to enjoy your goodies (to those who live in places where the weather makes this impossible, make your own “indoor beach” — c’mon, you can do it!)
- Go to that museum-you’ve-been-meaning-to-visit and view their wonderful, new exhibit, then enjoy a glass of wine at a nearby bistro
- Watch the animals at the nearest zoo and see how many animal couples in love you can find
- Make some cookies and hot chocolate, then enjoy them while you read to one another
- Get some chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and any other goodies of your choosing and do some creative body-painting
Do all of the above or none of the above, but whatever you do, ENJOY ONE ANOTHER, because, after all, even at the bottom of Pandora’s Box, there still was HOPE.Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all, with love from your Kindly Hermudgeon 🙂