Valentine's in the ME (Reflections on Valentine's Day)

Ok, so I'm not quite ready to quit the "ME".  But I'll only use it when the title fits!

Valentine's Day in the Middle East is indeed an interesting contradiction, but one that takes place every year without fail (at least in Qatar and the UAE).

Smilin' Vic insists it is the most commercialized and money-making racket of the year, with no universally agreed upon historical origin.  So even though I've gotten the occasional flowers, trinket, card or dinner on February 14, it's been mostly for the benefit of our daughter.  I know there's no great emotion, passion or meaning behind them.  And I can honestly say this does not bother me one bit.  

As a child, I loved Valentine's Day, but what I loved most about the day was the tradition, the excitement of preparing cut-out cards for my classmates and the thrill of getting a little packet of red cinnamon heart candies.  Exchanging cards, coming home with a little stack from my classmates, laying them out on proud display for my parents.  

I'm not a great fan of chocolate, particularly the mass-boxed kind, which is what most teenaged boys can afford as a gift.  So if I was dating anyone on February 14th as a teen, I'd usually ask to go to the movies.  I LOVE popcorn!

I like jewelry, but I don't covet it.  I don't particularly fancy heart-shaped lockets, so a previous partner agonized for the first few years over what to get me.  Early on in our relationship, he brought me out for a 5-course set meal at the most exclusive local restaurant (not all that much, considering I was living in the remote North).  Turns out I was coming down with a 24-hour flu.  I remember looking down at the carrot/celery appetizer and praying I wouldn't vomit then and there.  $200 worth of struggling to get through that Valentine's meal.

Valentine's Day just doesn't do that much for me as an adult.  But tonight, as I was printing out Valentine's Day bookmarks for my daughter to bring to school, I got to thinking about why it's such a big deal, even here in the ME.

From what I've read and heard (but I'm no expert), in Islam there are several reasons NOT to celebrate V Day:

  • it is a day referring to romantic love, filled with promiscuity and sex, with no restraints, not related to the pure love that exists between spouses;
  • while expression of love towards a spouse with gifts and prose are okay, they should occur throughout the year, not just on one specific day;
  • love and care for one another should occur at all times and in any circumstance;
  • love should be celebrated in a more general sense, not limited to the love a man feels for a woman or a woman feels for a man;
  • love before marriage is not encouraged.

(Please forgive my liberal interpretation of these premises, but this is the gist of what I've googled and heard!)

Tonight, February 8, 2013, as I listen to the call to prayer from the local mosque, I remain perplexed as to how this day has pervaded the world.  Even in an Islamic country, where its premises contradict religious edicts, Valentine's Day has permeated the culture.  

Shopping today revealed storefronts festooned with hearts, cake shops displaying heart-shaped sweets, internet advertisements for romantic meals in favorite restaurants and February 14th vacation packages in all the local hotels.

I have never celebrated St. Valentine's Day as a Christian.  I have partaken in it as a popular cultural occasion.  Contrary to what some might believe, it is not a religious holiday, not even in the West.

Tonight, as I sit here typing away on my blog, sipping on a glass of wine, Smilin' Vic is preparing dinner.  He's set up kiddo on the sofa with a favorite movie, and I have a few hours or so all to myself, to do with as I please.  I had a short snooze, I'm typing, I'm appreciating my life immensely right now.  I'm thinking that today is a great show of love, made up of dozens of little examples.  I'm thinking today is as good a day as any to celebrate love.

I'm not averse to Valentine's Day, I just don't get it.  I am a Romantic by nature, yet I don't wake up feeling more loving, caring or sexually appealing on February 14th.  I don't feel prettier, or sexier, or more appreciated on that day.  

I still enjoy Valentine's Day, but that's for kiddo.  I like decorating cookies with her.  I love watching her sign cards for her schoolmates.  I love the thought of love.

The more I think about it, the more I think about its appeal, the more I can't help but think the 14th of February isn't about love or romance at all.  The more I think about it, the more I think it may be about hope.  Hope for love, hope for romance, hope someone will notice you, hope someone will make you feel special, hope someone will make time for you, hope someone will like you.  

The more I think about it, the more I like the thought that it's all about hope.  A world day for love seems silly to me.  Love isn't about a day, it's about a lifetime.  But a world day for hope ... somehow that makes sense.  It seems there's something just wrong about paying for 24 hours of love.  But shelling out a few bucks for hope ... well, it just doesn't seem quite so perverse.

And that would explain why the world can't negate Valentine's Day.  No matter what your religion, your race, your culture, your nationality, once in a while hope has to have its day. 

And on that note, I wish you Happy Valentine's Day from me in the ME.