When I was single I didn't mind Valentine's Day very much. It was a day when people in love headed to the 99p shop to decorate their houses with heart shaped
My first Valentine's day in England came as a bit of a culture shock. Where I'm from I never experienced Valentine's Day to be a big deal. I don't remember my parents ever exchanging gifts or dressing in pink and the only Valentine's gift I ever got was from my then best friend at nursery. It was a chocolate bar and I remember it only because it was the day I learnt of the existence of Valentine's day and got completely unexpected chocolate.
I certainly never felt inadequate for not getting the best Valentine's gift because I don't remember people around me exchanging them openly and turning it into a weird competition of love. Are the Germans more subtle than the English or (judging purely on what I know from their TV shows) Americans? No but competition in good old Germany tends to be about car size and garden neatness. You may judge for yourself which one you find more
So, now as a resident in a Valentine's mad nation in a new..ish relationship (first Valentine's Day) I get the feeling other people get around Christmas (which, for the record, is the best thing the gift card industry ever invented). Plus the added anxiety that, if I choose to spend this Valentine's Day with my usual sense of intellectual detachment and a good helping of sneering, it would be read as not caring.
The problem I have with Valentine's Day is not the scramble for tables in crowded restaurants or the fact that pink somehow has become an acceptable colour to wear; not even the fact that it's allotting couples 24 hours to exhaust themselves romantically for the next 364 days. It is the very specific expectations that come attached to the day itself. Chocolate, cards, flowers and a bonus present (jewellery or perfume- delete as appropriate) probably make it the gift-giving "holiday" with the least amount of thought required. Te reason I prefer Christmas and (to a decreasing extend) birthdays is that the process of gift-buying to think about the giftee's likes and personality (in most cases) whereas for Valentine's Day comes down to how much you spent on token gifts which in many ways is equal to simply shredding a £50 note.