[Updated February 2023]

my untitled painting

I recently learned that there’s a big difference between « Joyeuse Saint Valentin » in France and “Happy Valentine’s Day” in the United States.

While the greetings mean the same thing, Valentine’s Day in France is for couples, so only partners would greet each other « Joyeuse Saint Valentin. »

However, in the U.S., everyone wishes each other a “Happy Valentine’s Day” on February 14 — it’s not just for couples.

It’s common for friends and colleagues to say it to each other, too. Thanks to the American TV comedy, Parks & Recreation, there’s even a “Galentine’s Day” to celebrate female friendship (on February 13). Many people also give special toys to their pets on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day at work (2017)
Valentine’s Day at work (2018)
Valentine’s Day at work (2019)

In grade school, we’re taught to exchange candy hearts and handmade cards with the entire class so no one feels left out.

But how can one feel special if everyone gets a “You’re the best, Valentine!” card?

A little creativity, thoughtfulness, and humor go a long way! One year, my younger daughter’s classmate gave her this delightful Valentine:

a Valentine heart, with arteries and veins!

Valentine’s Day is serious business

If only simple gestures were enough! For many people, though, it’s go big or go home. As if quantity or size equaled the measure of love one has for another, we learn to give/expect over-the-top experiences, like fancy dinners, hot-air balloon rides, or ziplining through treetops.

We give/expect enormous teddy bears, heart-shaped boxes of decadent chocolate, sparkly jewelry, and giant bouquets of fragrant flowers.

As a result, upwards of $20 billion dollars is spent on Valentine’s Day gifts and fancy dinners each year here in the U.S.

unagi donburi from Iyasare in Berkeley (2022)
white rose: a symbol of purity, innocence, and youth
red rose: a symbol of love and passion
yellow rose: a symbol of friendship

Poem: Une amie qui s’appelait Rose

I once wrote a poem about an anthropomorphic/personified flower for one of my French classes. If Rose were a person, how would they feel?

Translated from French:

A friend named Rose 🥀

“I see life through rose-colored glasses...”

Someone sang

I will sing too

“I live the life of a rose ...”

I will dance in the morning water

I'll be there for you

You can give me

To your friends and to your wife

You can offer me to them

Have you quarreled?

Give me to this person

And she will forgive you

Are you sick?

I am the best medicine.

Are you dreaming?

Breathe me in.

I am real.

When you were sad, I was there

When you were crying, I received

Your tears - the water of your eyes

One, two, three

On my arms

I thought it was

The morning water

So, I started to dance

You were smiling

You were no longer sad

And then you discovered

That she still loved you

So, you continued your love affair ...

While I danced

In my tears ...

The water of my eyes for you

I wonder, “Is this the life of a rose?”
– from my book, “The Quiet Child – Poems” (2007)

Will you accept this rose? 🌹

These days, when I think about the gesture of giving flowers, popular TV shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette come to mind. After their incredible dates that include fancy dinners, hot-air balloon rides, and ziplining through treetops, the Bachelor(ette) asks their love interest, “Will you accept this rose?”

Thinking about my poem, perhaps one should be asking: “Will this rose accept you?” 😉

Will you accept this, Rose? (screenshot from the 1997 film, Titanic, which was playing in the waiting room of my dentist’s office!)

What are your thoughts about Valentine’s Day/La Saint-Valentin? Let me know in the comments below! ❤️🌹