This is going to sound ludicrous to many of you, but I really miss the fuss we Americans make over Valentine’s Day.
In Ireland, this holiday is barely worth a mention. Last year they ran a little piece in the local paper asking the locals what they thought of it and it was overwhelmingly dissed. Most people, it seems, view it as a cheeky “Hallmark Holiday,” a forced attempt by retailers to make people declare their love when they really should be doing that every day of the year.
I do not disagree with these comments, but I think I fortunately have a broader view of Valentine’s Day because it was so much fun celebrating it as a kid. What about parties with your friends and loads of little Valentine cards shared between you? What about the heart-shaped candies with the funny sentiments and the minty, chalky flavours? What about a little heart-shaped candy box covered in cheap satin next to your cereal bowl in the morning as a special surprise from your parents? What about an extra $5 and a hug from your grandma?
I never actually had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and Frank and I have kept it pretty low key over the years… but I still love it. I look forward to it, even just as an extra excuse to bake something sweet during the humdrum of February. For me, Valentine’s Day has never really been about the romance, and I think maybe that’s why it has meant more, in a roundabout way.
Unfortunately, V-Day here is still only seen as a day for sappy lovers. I’ve actually been trying to find some kind of decorations or even pink and red construction paper in town so Evey and I can carry on my traditions – with no luck!!! The only Valentine kitsch I’ve seen are adult-themed, from liquor chocolates to fuzzy handcuffs. This furthers my opinion that the Irish are really missing out on a great little holiday.
However – to be fair – the Americans kind of miss the point with St. Patrick’s Day, too. Think about it – in the USA, Paddy’s Day is really just an adult celebration – a massive drinking party where everyone claims some form of Irish heritage but can’t even pronounce Sinead O’Connor.
In Ireland – obviously – Paddy’s Day is a celebration for everyone in the family, a much-anticipated melee of national pride, parades, dancers, food, music and games. And drinking, yes, but no green beer. Our town alone prepares for it months ahead of time and the day is spent mingling on the streets with friends and family, wearing green or pinning shamrocks to your lapel, eating ice cream and steamy bags of chips, taking in the fun fair and generally just celebrating being Irish.
So which is your favourite? The shops here have been stocked for weeks with banners, hats, face paints, cards and everything else you can imagine to celebrate Paddy’s Day, but nearly nothing for Valentine’s Day. If I were Stateside, it would be the opposite in most places – more red than green adorning the shelves. I love both days, and I think they both deserve a celebration. But come on, Irish – spread a little love! Make Valentine’s Day a holiday for kids and families as much as for lovers! And Americans – forget about the corned beef (which I’ve never made as long as I’ve lived here) and see if there’s a good Irish band or kids Irish dance troupe in your area and celebrate the holiday in a more culturally aware fashion. Or just come over here and see how we do it.
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