Happy feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius!
Oh, and happy St. Valentine's Day, too, of course. :)
Much as it pains me to disagree slightly with the great Simcha Fisher, I have to say that I really am one of those women who doesn't want, need, or expect any particular token or gesture today. I like going out for dinner on our wedding anniversary when we can, and I appreciate very much Thad's gift-giving efforts on my birthday, at Christmas, and even on Mother's Day when theoretically he's just helping the girls pick something out. But the way Valentine's Day is celebrated in modern America, I've tended to tune the whole thing out--and this was true long before I found my true love and got married and had three beautiful daughters.
Don't get me wrong; I have no objection to Valentine's Day-themed candy around the house, especially in those years when Valentine's Day doesn't fall during Lent. And I don't mind making a nice dinner, either, or exchanging some homemade cards. But all the rest of it, the flowers and restaurant reservations and gifts ranging from cute and inexpensive to heart-shaped chunks of seriously overpriced jewelry, just seems like our American culture's usual tendency to take a good thing and run it to the ground via a process whereby multinational corporations convince American consumers that they really, really need heart-themed kitchen towels and pink and white lacy place mats made in (country redacted) to create a truly Meaningful Special Important Valentine's Day Experience with their Loved Ones.
Here again, though, don't get me wrong: that's just me.
Whenever I've written about holidays and gift-giving and couples, the one thing I've said is that each husband and wife should communicate openly and honestly about what they expect, want, desire, etc.--as well as communicating openly and honestly about things like budget, stress, and the nonavailability of seasoned baby-sitters to take over a household full of small children on a school night. Family experience plays an important role here; my own parents never made a big deal out of Valentine's Day, and I'm sure that influences my outlook--but I know women whose mothers spent the beginning of February in a fever of anticipation (sometimes, alas, culminating in an all-out plague of disappointment), and for them being ignored on Valentine's Day is the equivalent of having one's husband spend the couple's anniversary watching ESPN alone in a sports bar: not a good thing, in other words.
So when trouble arises, as trouble sometimes does, it's because one spouse thinks Valentine's Day should be a romantic evening out followed by the exchanging of some pretty significant gift items, while the other spouse thinks that Valentine's Day is an excuse for florists to raise their prices, for restaurants to offer "specials" as a way of clearing out that shipment of iffy chicken they got in last week, and for card-companies to make a killing. And if one person simply pretends that he or she is okay with the other person's way of doing--or not doing--things, sooner or later the truth will come out, usually with a lot of hurt feelings and recriminations along the way.
Which is really a pity. Because far more important than flowers or chocolates or trinkets or evenings out to the health of a relationship is open and honest communication--not just once in a while on major or minor holidays, but all the time. Words of love, of friendship and appreciation, nourish a relationship and help it grow; honesty about feelings, even about how one really feels about Valentine's Day, for instance, is necessary to the relationship between two people who love each other.
Tokens of love are important (though the specific days on which they are exchanged will vary from couple to couple, as I said before). But sometimes here in America I think we make the tokens more important than the reality they are meant to express, and nowhere is that more evident than in a nation which spends more than seventeen billion dollars on a holiday celebrating love and relationships--and in which so many marriages end in divorce.