The cynic will tell you the true beneficiaries are the florists, chocolatiers and greeting card companies. It's the day for splashing the cash to show how you feel. We're conditioned to equate love and affection with red hearts, red roses and most bizarrely perhaps, stuffed animals. Even I can admit that although I think it's a total waste of money in principle, I will bristle a bit if there isn't even a card to open on 14th.
So does anyone else see it as something more than an obligation? It's different perhaps, if you're in a new relationship - it can be an opportunity to test the waters with someone, claiming it's under the guise of a nationally enforced festival. You might gauge the romantic potential of an as yet undefined partnership by the show of sentiments... Or lack thereof. Of course it's ultimately a ridiculous idea - why would this one day miraculously make the uncommunicative commitment-phobe a font of love poems and affirmations? Or make rejection any more palatable?
I also find it very difficult to appreciate the feel-good factor of a day that can put people's loneliness or unhappy relationships into high relief. When your best friend is showered with cards, flowers and compliments, and you can't even get a seat on the bus...that's not a good day. Then there's that unspoken sense of competition - whether you're in the playground comparing scrawled notes and penny sweets, or at work, smugly hogging the office's collection of vases with your array of roses, there's always going to be a sense of winning or losing.
It seems as though for many, the most fun is to be had in turning the whole concept of Valentine's Day on its head: hold an anti-Valentine's party - simply get drunk and slag off ex-lovers. Or make like the Finnish do and remember friends as well as loved ones, not necessarily by sending a card or buying chocolates, but just by calling them up and having a chat. Also, look on the bright side - everywhere you turn, pink champagne and chocolates are on special offer - it's a good time to stock up.
By: Grace Timothy