What do you think about anti-holidays…

John Devitt

What is it about Valentine’s Day that generates so much bile in people?  Earlier this week many people and places throughout Revelstoke held “Anti Valentine’s Day” celebrations.  This theme wasn’t relegated to Revelstoke, but seemed to be taking off abroad as well, and more so this year than any other.  What is it about Valentine’s Day that attracts so much unnecessary drama?

Like many silly holidays we still celebrate in the western world, Valentine’s Day is heavily rooted in Christian theology.  Saint Valentine is an amalgamation of 3 different martyrs, none of whom did anything remotely romantic or oriented around love, apart from converting heathens and being beaten with clubs.  It wasn’t until the 14th century, during the high middle ages and times of chivalry, that Geoffrey Chaucer began associating Valentine’s Day with romantic love.  Since the industrial revolution Valentine’s Day has become increasingly commercialized, leading us to the state of the holiday we are currently at, reviled by many people coordinating counter Valentine’s Day festivities.

During a recent dinner party, a number of us joked about what it might look like if we stood up and revolted against some of the other ridiculous holidays that we still celebrate.  What if the drama around Valentine’s Day extended to other over hyped holidays?

Saint Patrick’s Day originally celebrated the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.  Everyone wore blue, not green, and the shamrock was used as a metaphor to explain the Holy Trinity to pagans.  Eventually St. Patty’s incorporated the end of Lent, another Christian tradition that relegated eating and drinking.  Since then it has become over commercialized and used as an excuse for binge drinking and pretending to be of Irish heritage.  In the spirit of “counter” holidays, I propose a day of detoxing and boycotting of the colour green.  Let’s be honest, just as we don’t need Valentine’s Day to share love with those important to us, we don’t need a specific day to exhibit our collective drunken buffoonery.  I am insulted by the presumption by the corporations that we can only prove our dedication to alcohol one day a year.

For a day celebrating dead people, is it too easy to suggest celebrating all of the live people next to us?  Halloween was a Celtic festival celebrating the end of summer.  However, this was altered by the Christian church to include celebrating all of the saints on one day, and praying for the souls of the recently departed.  Later the Christian church condemned the holiday and it wasn’t until the early 20th century that it found mass acceptance in North America.

As 2012 is a Leap Year, February 29th receives special mention.  Leap Year Day was traditionally the only day when women were legally allowed to propose marriage to a man and it was illegal to refuse such a proposal.  Fines were levied for breaking this law; requiring the man to provide anything from a kiss, a silk gown or 12 pairs of gloves.  Considering that we already don’t celebrate this day every 4 years, I suppose a counter leap day celebration would consist of ignoring the other 365 days in the year and just progressing straight to 2013.

While more than willing to take a day off work after Christmas, do we know what Boxing Day is?  Again, this was a Christian holiday created to recognize Saint Stephen.  It, too, lost the plot in the mid 1600s when it became more about showering your servants with gifts.  If you wanted to ensure your fancy pants Christmas went smoothly, you gave your servants leftover food in a tin box and the day off to spend with their own families.  Maybe we can deny this holiday by going back to work and paying more taxes to our rich overlords?

When viewed through this lens, it seems pretty silly to reject a holiday that we know very little about anyway.  Many holidays we celebrate are steeped in hundreds of years of mythology and tradition, changing many times over.  Nevertheless, the essences of these holidays continue to resonate.

As children we understood the simple concept of Valentine’s Day.  Why, as we grow older, have we forgotten Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love in all its forms?  Is Walt Disney to blame for the presumption that Valentine’s Day must be about romantic love?  I may not know the answer to those questions, but I do know I love to laugh and it was hilarious to see a day about love generate so much anger, vitriol and rebellion in people.