Just another splintered notch?

Andrew Rumbol 13 February 2014

Is any date – any splintered notch scraped into Yggdrasil’s great trunk – not worth celebrating if you’ve reason enough?

Mid-February once marked ‘Ee-molc’ of Celtic lore, when the crone goddess was reborn a virgin maid to engage again in spring’s revelries. In time both Brighid and the triple-goddess concept she embodied were woven into the cultural fabric of Gaelic Christianity by a people not wholly deserted by their old gods, and her amorous spring festival re-dedicated to the less-heathen Valentinus, the Roman saint of courtly love.

St Valentine’s day, when every bird comes together to find their Chaucerian ‘make’, is now met with the most bitterness and derision of all Western cultural holidays (it’s weird how Ilex’s tines have come to represent a far more amicable festival). Accusations of sexism, commercialisation, and being for many couples but a pallid spectre of true intimacy are each more valid a censure than the congenitally human response of veiled jealousy. Pink lies and cheap plastic are indeed sooner forgotten than returned to nature – but I’ll still be one of those celebrating this Friday.

‘but you shouldn’t need a calendar date to show someone you love them!’

Of course not – birthdays aren’t necessary to appreciate life and celebrate friendships. They’re just fun. They provide recognised foci to look forward to. They make it easier for some people to say words that otherwise might catch in their throats. We don’t denounce Christmas as worthless with the same Nahashian venom, though peace and festive goodwill soon melt into gritty slush with the onset of work and other social burdens. Perhaps it says something about our society that we need so imposing a totem to excuse ourselves from professionalism. When else would a boss grudgingly permit you early leave, to spend some time just being in love?

Of course Valentine’s Day is commercialised – companies try to make money out of it as they would any opportunity. It’s sexist, too – where is the acrid woodsmoke of patriarchy tasted more strongly than the day’s focus, traditional male-female relationships?

These are all criticisms about Western society though, about patriarchy, about capitalism, about lies and excuses and the horrible things humans can do. I don’t believe they should nullify any genuine celebration of connection and equality, or cheapen the wonder of love. I hope there are other people, too, who still think these are things worth marking a date to enjoy.