Valentine’s? San Valentín? Halloween? It’s all very confusing to me, and I’ve been mixing up those words since I moved to the USA in the 2000’s. I grew up in Latin America, and down there Valentine’s is not a common celebration or tradition. I only started hearing about Valentine’s in the late 90’s and it was all due to Hollywood movies. But it all felt very fake and forced.
Back in Latin America, we do not really understand why someone has to show their love to another person on a specific day. How can someone show or force their feelings on command??! I don’t get it. We are used to showing our love when we really feel it, and when we do, it does not translate into buying expensive gifts to prove ourselves. On the contrary. If we really love someone, that someone would never expect any material stuff. Passion and pure love would suffice. In Buenos Aires, you can see “public displays of affection” -of very passionate affection- out in the open everywhere you go. Down there, it’s Valentine’s and springtime every day of the year…
According to Wikipedia, St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to February 14, and added to later martyrologies. A popular account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. It totally makes sense to me that probably the very same Spaniards who came to conquer us and tame us with religion, made sure that this Saint was not included in their teachings, in order to avoid stirring up passions in the native people.
Here in the U.S., it is such an exhausting time. It all starts at my kids’ school. We get a note in our kids backpacks 2 weeks in advance stating: “Here is a class list your child can use for addressing Valentine’s. We will be exchanging cards. Please send in a small treat to share with the class”. Translation: Head to the arts & crafts store a.s.a.p. Get supplies to hand make 20 cards. Include stickers, glitter, color paint and scented confetti. Buy nice little gifts for everyone to enjoy such as mini candy, erasers, pencils, and the typical trash found inside birthday goodie bags. Hand write & personalize with the name of every single kid on the list, and send to class on Halloween (sorry!!!) Valentine’s day. In my case, I have 2 kids, which means make 40 cards. Do you follow my exhaustion??
Then come the emails in my inbox: “Dear Consuelo, Want to look and feel your best this Valentine’s Day? Come see us and we will show you how! Visit us before Valentine’s day and receive $5 off your next waxing appointment”. And the radio ads at 6:30 in the morning: “It just wouldn’t be Valentine’s day without mmmm chocolates! I don’t mean ANY chocolates, I mean smoooooth, luscious, handmade chocolates…” So overwhelming. I can’t imagine the pressure a guy would feel. It is just insane. There is indeed a multimillion dollar industry behind Valentine’s day: from the cards, to the flowers, chocolates, and diamonds.
In this country love revolves around materialism. And they make sure you get a reminder everywhere you go. If you love somebody in the U.S., make sure you show them how much, on a very specific day, by doing exactly what you are told to do. This afternoon I was driving my kids back from school when I suddenly lost one of my contact lenses. I immediately freaked out since I was driving in traffic and my prescription is -5. I covered my bad eye, and kept on driving pirate style until I got home. My 7 year old realized the effort and stress I was going through, and said: “Mom if I was a teenager and could drive, I would save you right now.” Then I realized this is all I want for Valentine’s: an expression of pure, honest and innocent love.