Valentine’s Day got more than the usual bad press this year – or maybe I have too many cynical people in my circle at the moment, so it was more noticeable.
It’s not that I am a particular fan of Valentine’s Day myself. My childhood memories of pressing out punched cards from a sheet of light cardboard to give to my school friends – and worrying about whether I’d receive any in return – are not fond ones. In elementary school, valentine cards were a marker of popularity: a sign of friendship given to classmates regardless of gender. Traditionally, they were meant to be anonymous, but we always made sure the people we valued knew that we had given them one – and we always knew who the ‘alpha female’ in the class was: the girl who received the most.
I do, however, think that the ‘anti-Valentine’ people, those who claim it is a trumped-up occasion, invented by the modern greeting-card companies in cahoots with rose growers, florists, and the manufacturers of chocolates and teddy-bears, have got it wrong. While the tradition of giving cards has nothing to do with any of the many martyred St Valentines of early Christendom, it does go back at least to 1400. The oldest surviving valentine is a 15th century poem written by Charles, Duke of Orléans, to his wife, while he was being held prisoner in the Tower of London. Nothing what-so-ever to do with modern commercial enterprise!
I do understand their argument that trinkets and gifts one day a year are meaningless. But, symbolism is important, and special days give us an opportunity to make the time to acknowledge a loved one. We don’t have to “buy into” conventional commercialism: small gifts or cards chosen or hand-made with care are always more special. And, if every day is Valentine’s Day, all the better!
This year, I spent Valentine’s Day alone. My husband was in Singapore on business – and not for the first time. (No wonder the country has one of the lowest birthrates in the world: running trade shows, oblivious to Valentine’s Day, is not good for population growth!)
Two years ago, however, we managed to escape from Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan, where the staff at our resort made a wonderful fuss over us. Thai’s love a romantic cliché, and we were treated to sparkling wine and a dinner of pink foods overlooking the ocean.
I will take chocolate any time and in any shape, but I’ve never been a great fan of roses. Although they are beautiful and smell gorgeous, I’ve always considered them ‘fussy’. Someone recently called them ‘snobs’ for thinking they so are special, while in fact, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince points out to the roses of earth: “You are beautiful, but you are empty.”
But, Thai gardens are abundant with other flowers – and I delight in trying to capture some of them with my camera.
(Apparently, the flower above is a แย้มิป่นัง (yemibonang???) in Thai… If anyone knows what it is in English, I’d appreciate hearing from them!)
The flowers all around us were a reminder to stop, take a moment…
… and smell the not-roses.
I hope you had a nice Valentine’s Day – with or without chocolate and flowers.
Photos: 14 February 2010 (Most of them)
Keerreewaree Resort, Prachuap Khiri Khan