I grew up celebrating Valentine’s Day in full force – both in Mexico and Manila. My parents were both avid believers of the holiday, even though Daddy was not that much of a fan of buying flowers, something Mommy always wished he had done more. There was one year he came home and handed her a peculiar bouquet of hand-picked flowers which she immediately recognised as being from her garden. He first got a scolding and then a kiss that year.
Chocolates were something Daddy would buy in copious quantities in spite of his diabetes, simply because he got to share in the loot as well. Mommy would always find cute ways of coming up with Valentine’s Day gifts for us, and usually meant the edible kind. In her funny way of jumbling languages she came up with the classic phrase “I love you todo todo!” which she also shared with my daughter later on. Food became the central feature of our family Valentine’s Day, which held on until the very end. So to me, living in Germany where Valentine’s Day is not a native holiday, let alone a family event, it’s sad and downright depressing.
Up until about ten years ago, there was barely a shadow of Valentine’s Day in Germany. It is only through mass media and social media that it has picked up as a massive sales and marketing ruse, but otherwise, for all intents and purposes of the average native Berliner, Valentine’s Day is a seven-headed purple monster with warts whose only purpose in life is to sell flowers and condoms. Not all the flower shops bothered to even offer special packets, and my favourite radio station even had to explain the cultural background of the holiday on an hourly basis. Adopted holidays are a crappy thing, especially if only the commercial side of it is highlighted. In Mexico it was also known as Dia de la Amistad (Friendship Day), which is something my friends and I had no problem celebrating at all!
I decorated the office with my Valentine frogs (yes, I actually do have some, and didn’t even manage to bring them all in), much to the surprise of my colleagues, who otherwise would have let February 14 all slip by like another ordinary work day, which it was. This is the first year that I didn’t receive flowers or chocolates, and half way through the day I was beginning to really resent Valentine’s Day. By the evening I was cranky and bitter, resentful of all the happy people on the bus on the way to a date or carrying bouquets of flowers in varying sizes. By the time I reached home I was ready to write an angry blog ranting about the commercialism of this strange holiday, but chose to have another one-way conversation with my cats instead and a long FaceTime conversation with my daughter. The cats were polite enough to sit at the table with me for a candlelight dinner and manage to restrain from squabbling over an empty box.
I missed Mommy’s quirky little cookies (one year she even made me heart-shaped pancakes), or Daddy’s cute way of kissing Mommy for Valentine’s Day and asking where she wanted to eat. Sour-graping aside though, I do think Valentine’s Day is the most unnecessary holiday ever invented. Why do you have to wait for February 14th to tell someone that you care about them or want to bring them flowers? Love and affection need no special holiday of their own because they are part and parcel of who you are, and not something to be dictated by a stupid card or a flower shop. Every day is Valentine’s Day.