Valentine’s Day: the day when thousands of innocent words are forced into dire, yearning poetry that no one should ever read — much less someone you’d like to sleep with. It's a day that provokes tricky political deliberations if it happens to fall early in a relationship; does one play cool or go to town, and how swiftly will one get dumped for misjudging the prevailing conditions? This is the day on which irritating little brothers counted up the couple of dozen cards that landed on the mat with their name on, while you pondered whether the postman has it in for you, and finally it’s the day when forgetful fellows frantically ring up every last restaurant in town trying to get a booking before finally being forced to persuade the object of their affections that the local kebab shop has an intimate atmosphere that’s criminally overlooked by the critics.
Valentine’s Day gives the cynics a licence to revel in their cynicism, they so rarely get to be happy, and there is no humbuggery quite like Valentine humbuggery. One could almost get the impression that there’s something a little defensive about it… And all this before we get to that moment at the dinner table, when flowers have been given, chocolates laid out on the freshly laundered pillows at home, and you stare into the eyes of your amour only to realise that you’d much rather be at home watching MacGyver than spending €90 a head on a set menu you don’t even like, on a Tuesday night.
Then there’s the lethal fact that if flowers/chocolates/passionate expressions of devotion haven’t all been given at least once, and voluntarily, over the course of the previous 364 days, this day simply serves to remind her what a useless cad she’s hooked up with and will undoubtedly hasten the relationship’s demise rather than deepen it.
And what about modern romance? Does Tinder go dead on Valentine’s Day in case anyone gets all carried away with the wrong idea? Or do people hook up anyway because everyone knows St Valentine is just a shill for Hallmark? Tinderers please let us know what you do.
We’re not even going to talk the tortures visited on single people with the brutal annual reminder that we all die alone, however some people are more likely to be eaten by their pets before their bodies are found than others.
So you’d think that a day so fraught with perils and pitfalls, so rife with disappointments and petrol station roses, would be a nightmare to bruit abroad, but no. Valentine’s Day is virtually Europe’s second biggest export after men in unfortunate trousers.
You can head to virtually any corner of the globe and you’ll find Valentine’s Day being celebrated with as much gusto, if not more, than it is in the chilly climes of northern Europe where the celebration is thought to have originated.
In Japan and North Korea Valentine’s Day is celebrated a little differently. They somehow got it into their heads that it is the Woman who gives the chocolate to the man, and all the better if she makes it herself. As if. Fortunately, they had the good sense to implemente a claw-back provision exactly a month later, when the guys have to stump up in return, albeit with white chocolate, which is arguably more abomination than actual chocolate, but that is a debate for another day.
In Cambodia, Valentine’s Day has become a huge event as teenaged boys and girls, who normally would never have publicly courted in the past, enjoy the opportunity to boldly declare their feelings in modern style. But there is a dark side, and the government once again this year issued an appeal for youngsters to cool their ardour as young men have come to regard it as an opportunity to pressure their partners into having sex, a subject in relation to which very traditional views are unfortunately still applied to young women. The saying goes that men are like gold, ergo untarnishable, and women like cloth, on whom the stains stick.
On the other hand, it’s hard to get more romantic than the Philippines (President Duterte notwithstanding), where mass Valentine’s Day weddings have become popular with hundreds of people getting together to tie the knot or renew their vows. And you know, if you don't like the one that brung you, maybe you can swap?
In Brazil, the love is shared all around with gifts given to friends and family as well as lovers for a wider expression of all the forms love can take. That’s more like it!
In South Africa, the women literally wear their hearts on their sleeves, by pinning the names of their crushes on their shirtsleeves, a daring move if you happen to be crushing on your boss, or best friend's dad.
But, whichever way you choose to celebrate it, or not, don’t ever Google Valentine’s Day jokes. Life is too short, trust us.
Image: Cupid, Wikimedia Commons