Hearts, flowers, and candy do not equal love

Valentines Day – and there are red hearts in every shop window, heart shaped candy boxes all over the place, vast numbers of flowers for sale in the supermarkets and people lined up two deep at the card racks. It is the commercial holiday where we are encouraged to purchase all manner of signs and symbols of love. It seems contrived and not very real.

It was reported yesterday that the average man spends over $160 for Valentine gifts and entertaining. Women spend about half that amount. By any standard it is a staggering figure in total.

And the question in my mind is what is the effect? Economically it is positive for small and large businesses, especially card shops, florists, restaurants, jewelers, liquor stores and candy makers. But does it have any positive effects on people? My gut tells me it does not.

This is a day where external forces (society and other peoples expectations) move us to buy gifts, meals, card and all manner of doo-dads that proclaim “love.” For people who already live out love in their life it is another opportunity do so – not a change in behavior. For those who do not usually live out love – it is an external expression that can be purchased to stave off negative consequences not a mode of behavior or relationship. For some the motivation on Valentines Day and other such days is to meet an expectation more than to express a deeply held feeling. I recall a poster I saw in a florist shop. There was a picture of a single rose in a vase, another of a dozen roses in a vase and a third picture of several dozen roses. The caption at the bottom of the poster simply asked “How mad is she?”

I heard an interview the other day of a couple that has created hand made valentines for one another for 40 years using materials they have in the house. I recall some of the cards our children have made us that we have kept and continue to treasure.

If we want to celebrate love most effectively it would cause us to write a note, give a gift, express in action and attitude our love and gratitude to another on days when it is not expected – so that it becomes a gift from the heart and not from the culture.

To communicate love need not be costly or florid. It simply needs to be deeply real and personal flowing from the love within us. Otherwise it is just window dressing and we know it is not really real.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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