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February 14. 2004

Valentine’s Day





The roots of Valentine’s Day are vague, with ties to Christianity and Traditional midwinter observations alike. At one extreme it’s basically the same holiday as Groundhog Day, helping us get through the season (as evoked in last year’s poem.) In its contemporary incarnation it’s been turned into a sales pitch for flowers and greeting cards and chocolates and such. The commercialism may be decried, but this debasement is only the usual tax levied by capitalism, and accrues to everything we celebrate. Even so, I can’t think of anything more worthy of celebration than Love.

Love, of course, can mean many different things, but whether we consider the mating of birds or people, it’s clear that romantic love is the object of the Holiday. This Valentine’s Day comes at a low point in my personal romantic arc (at least I hope it doesn’t get much lower,) as I am single, and aging, and now feeling the emasculating effect of unemployment, which makes one reluctant even to put oneself forward in the face of the inevitable “and what do you do?” Do? I walk around the Park, and wait for Spring, and I profess about it, but that doesn’t amount to a profession, nor does it serve the cause of seduction much.

I touched on these matters (minus the unemployment) in my first Valentine’s post in 2000, ultimately focusing on the symbol of the Rose, something that can be found in the Park. Not to say that love itself cannot be found there, but it seems to require an expansion of the concept, such as I argued for in 2001.

But that’s all just another way of saying that Love is more than romance, which proceeds from saying that romance is more than sex, which is what it really comes down to. Sex is Nature, while Love is Culture, but a connective tissue of metaphor (which is to say, meaning) grows between, and knits our bodies to our souls.

So for me, Valentine’s Day has been a matter of expanding the boundaries of the Holiday, and I think that’s fair enough, if we accept that a holiday is something visited on the whole of the populace, not just those for whom it is “applicable.” This is surely true of the official holidays; in the case of those that are not government sanctioned I suppose we may pick and choose, but certain of them: Valentine’s, Halloween, Mother’s Day, etcetera, are so deeply worked into our culture that they are hard to ignore, and I have included them in my personal canon insofar as they seem good to me. And as I said, the idea of a Holiday of Love is estimable; far better than many things we celebrate. If chastening the chaste is the danger, then loving outside the box, so to speak, is certainly preferable to the depression some singles are said to suffer on this occasion.

February is depressing enough in and of itself. The shortest month is the hardest to bear, even without the extra day this year brings. Maybe that’s why I like to fill it with holidays, official or otherwise. With Groundhog, Valentine’s, and Presidents, there are three guaranteed holidays in February, which equals any other month, as long as we don’t count the Twelve Days of Christmas individually. In many years there’s even a fourth February holiday, when Ash Wednesday wanders in.

Ash Wednesday is one of my more idiosyncratic choices for inclusion in the canon. There will be more to say of it when the day comes, but I mention it now because I see that in 2002 my Valentine’s post was predicated on the fact that Ash Wednesday fell the day before, leading me to present love as the last means of survival in an abnegated and excoriated world.

Ash Wednesday moves around dependent of the date of Easter, which is based on a lunar calculation, and can range over a month’s time. Presidents’ Day also moves, not so widely, but it has a week’s latitude, falling on February’s third Monday, which can be as early as the fifteenth. With Valentine’s Day fixed on the fourteenth, this can lead to a logjam of holidays. In ’02 they all fell within six days. That tends to tear the observer in different directions, but I guess I shouldn’t complain; it would be possible to have them actually overlap. Were Ash Wednesday to come on the fourteenth or fifteenth, we could have three holidays in two days. I’m not going to worry about it just now, but it’ll be a heavy February when that calendar comes ‘round.

This year Ash Wednesday waits for March, but Presidents’ Day is day after tomorrow, leaving me less of a window than I’d like. It’s a real change of gears to go from Love to Politicians. The calendar says the two cannot coincide, but I suppose the spirit of this Day obliges me to apply the one even to the other. The Holidays are challenges as much as celebrations.
Just like Love.