Who can forget the nervous tension of sending a Valentine’s card to a childhood crush? The thumping in your chest getting harder as you approach the object of your desire with a carefully addressed envelope. It contains a hand-made card covered in hearts, in which you have poured out all your feelings, in the hope that they may feel the same way. Alongside it, a single rose or gift of chocolate. The object of your love turns around, and breaks into a smile as they see what you have in your hand…
The tradition of sending our love on Valentine’s Day is well known all over the Western world, and has a growing following elsewhere. The tradition of sending love letters on the 14th of February goes back centuries, to the ancient legend many of us remember from primary school, of how Christian saint Valentine sent a note on the eve of his execution, signing it, ‘Your Valentine’.
In 2021, when most of us in the UK have been locked up in one way or another for almost a year, the fact that Valentine is said to have been writing to the daughter of his gaoler from an isolated prison cell adds some resonance to the occasion.
While some of us have been lucky enough to spend lockdown with our loving families or partners, for single people unable to meet and date handsome strangers, and lovers living apart, these may have been a lonely and isolated 12 months - and the story of sending love notes from our respective prisons is something they can probably relate to!
Of course people (and dating sites!) have tried to adapt to COVID and resurrect dating by using Zoom, and of course instant messaging is the king of comms – but I have had my fill of apps, and I think it’s still far more personal and romantic to send a hand-written card or letter to show your appreciation.
Perhaps this year localisation enthusiasts should learn from our friends around the world and make Valentines a day to appreciate friends and family too – like in Guatemala, where it’s known as ‘Día del Cariño’ – Affection Day – or El Salvador, where the ‘Secret Santa’-like game of Amigo Secreto is played. Or mimic Japan, where it’s common to send giri-choko (‘obligation chocolate’) to all your colleagues?
There will always be some who hate the fact that commercially, Valentines are now worth billions in extra sales around the world, seeing it as nothing but an excuse to spend money. But for us, the fact this is a celebration not only of love, but of communication and openness, means that like our Valentines, it’s very dear to our hearts!