Valentine’s Day a universal tradition

Hearts, chocolates, flowers, cupids and cards expressing sentiments of love are popular items today. So are crowded restaurants. Though there are many stories about how Valentine’s Day began, one thing is certain … the day is popular. Just take a look in the card aisle at your stores. Take a peek in the windows of the candy shops or florists. Or try to get a reservation for dinner tonight. We here in the United States love Valentine’s Day!

Europeans like it also. In Finland, for example, it is referred to as Friend’s Day and the focus is friendship rather than lovers. Norwegians celebrate Valentinsdagen by sending a card to a lover. In Italy, it is a day for couples to announce their engagement.

The Asian Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar when lovers go to the temple of Matchmaker and pray for their love and happiness and their possible marriage. People in Australia utilize the Valentine’s Day festival to strengthen bonds of love with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Travel the world and somehow we find ways to celebrate love and friendship.

This is a good day to remember those who are single and wish they weren’t. Not everyone who is single wishes they had a partner, but many do and for them, Valentine’s Day can be rather lonely or even painful. Restaurants look like Noah’s Ark as they fill with couples celebrating love. Even movie theaters and parks serve as a constant reminder that it is a day for couples.

So why the big celebration? Well, we know that the greeting card, flower and candy industry most likely had something to do with promoting this day.

But that aside, most of us know that without someone to love — be it a spouse, family members, neighbors, pets or friends — life can be lonely and sad. We need people in our lives. The vast majority of us would be quite lonely without family and friends.

But it is not just about getting love from people. It is also about giving love. In fact, giving might be the most important part of love and friendship. It is a sign of maturity when giving becomes more important than receiving. As we age we begin to see that giving back to this world is an essential part of our happiness and fulfillment. Very small children grab toys from other children. It is age appropriate. When their children learn to share, parents celebrate knowing they have done something right in teaching their young to be unselfish.

Consider how good you feel when you help someone who needs assistance. In our flood last summer, those who assisted consistently reported that they received more than they gave as they helped victims in so many ways. At a recent birthday party it felt very good for guests to give to a worthy cause instead of the celebrant.

With this in mind, today might be a good time to find a cause and donate some time or money to it. It is a day to celebrate love, and that means it is a day to give. Why not put the heart-shaped box of chocolates aside for a bit and stroll down to your nearest shelter or food pantry to donate some energy or time. You will feel better about yourself and you will feel better about life.

Mary Friedel-Hunt, freelance writer, publisher (Voice of the River Valley) and a licensed clinical social worker, has been a psychotherapist for 32 years. Her column runs weekly in Faith & Values. You may contact her by writing to: P.O. Box 189, Lone Rock, WI. 53556.