I suppose I didn’t think about it much. I had just finished a session with a client.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” She said.
I said: “Same to you!”
Later, the fatuousness of that exchange occurred to me. I am interred beneath a stone of years and steeped in more than a generation of marriage. The Viagra is kept in a locked cabinet in the basement to which my dear wife holds the key. She would greet any suggestion we celebrate by, say, a ‘dining experience’ with a look best described as old-fashioned. In her view such invitations imply guilt for some undiscovered crime. The investigation would not be pleasant. ‘Happy Valentine’?
No, I’m being serious. St. Valentine was not a happy chap. We don’t know much about him except his end at the murderous hands of Emperor Claudius Gothicus who had very reactionary views about Christians. His messy demise was celebrated as a feast day originally, and survives in the form of a rather charming little tradition; that of sending anonymous tokens of affection to those we love, and in some cases (thank you Bob Newhart) our wives.
Until somebody somewhere decided it should become a ‘Day’. And we should be ‘Happy’ on it.
And so it has joined a long list of such ‘Days’ upon which we should be ‘Happy’.
Once we were only entitled to be ‘Happy’ at Christmas and on our birthday. Now we are being Happy’ all over the most inappropriate places.
‘Happy Halloween’. What? The Eve of All Hallows is a celebration strictly for witches and warlocks, a time for evil mischief – not the best time to be abroad after sunset, and certainly not ‘Happy’. A little eye of newt, anyone?
‘Happy Easter’. Well, we all know what happened then. Yet we are enjoined to be ‘Happy’. No-one so far has thought of ‘Happy Ascension Day’, although that would make a lot more sense.
‘Happy Mothers’ Day’. A 20th Century invention in the USA, the creation of one Anna Jarvis back before the First World War, and a purely commercial affair, though it was originally intended to honour Anna’s mum. In UK its equivalent is Mothering Sunday. A noble tribute to mothers everywhere, but not a universal ‘Happy’. I, for example, am not a mother.
My point? By reducing each of these, and many other festive or votive occasions to ‘Days’ we are robbing them of their history and significance, and replacing them with a functionless vehicle for commercial interests. Christmas is, of course, the outstanding example of this, but how long will it be before the insidious influence of the greetings card and catering industries induces us to celebrate any number of other annual ‘Happy’s?
How about ‘Happy Pancake Day’ or ‘Happy No Smoking Day’? (Maybe we could link that up to Ash Wednesday). Why not Jedi Sunday, or ‘Happy Midsummer Day’?
Make your own suggestions – all valuable, unexploited marketing tools ready to sell us another over-priced greetings card, provide us with expensive dining and lend insignificance to another meaningless greeting.
Happy Dalek Invasion Day, everyone!