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Happy Valentine's Day (or not)

Does the Greek Australian community endorse February 14 celebrations?

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An 'Honest Valentine Day Card' by the #GUYCODE.

14 February 2015

More than 190 million Valentine cards are given each year and more than $13.2 billion is spent on that day worldwide. One hundred-ninety-six-million roses are specially produced for the 14 February, while a respectable 14 per cent of women sends flowers to themselves, not to mention a surprising 53 per cent of women in a relationship who would consider ending it if they didn't get something for Valentine's Day.

Let's pretend we didn't see the percentage of women that buy flowers for themselves, and read through this again: "Fifty-three per cent of women in a relationship would consider ending it if they didn't get something for Valentine's Day?"

Is Valentine's Day such an important celebration for women that it would determine the course of a relationship when the polls prove that only 13 per cent of men take an interest in it?

Valentine's Day isn't exactly a 'manly' celebration. This red, heart-shaped, floral and teddy bear-ish day with the smell of chocolate dominating the air is usually dreaded and bemoaned by the boys, with 62 per cent saying they honestly forget it even exists.

How do the Greek Australians feel about it, though? We went on and asked:

"I'm usually swamped with work. I hardly ever have time to rest, let alone make plans on what could be a random weekday," Apostolos, 37, tells Neos Kosmos.

"OK, this time it's on a Saturday. We could spend the night at home if she wants."

"The panic-attacked hordes of people out there will most likely give us a headache. The lines will be too long and I'm no teenager," he clarifies.
Michalis, 27 and single, is not very enthusiastic either.

"It's a waste of grey matter. Just like that stupid 50 Shades of Grey film that's sold-out on this stupid day. What's wrong with humanity?"

Jim, 31, married, isn't Valentine-friendly at all and hold his reservations, to say the least.

"Since when are we Greeks into Valentine's Day celebrations? This is all commercial crap," he says.

"If you love your woman you show it every day. Be a good partner, husband and father. Be there like a man. No teddy bear can replace that."

He seems to have a point.

Niko, on the other hand, is a 22-year-old single student who actually believes in the existence of the day.

"I think the day has very interesting roots in both theology and history, however, like most religious celebrations it seems to have become rather commercial, and even though in Greece the day was not associated with romance it now has been superseded by the globalised Valentine's Day," he tells.

"I'm not very keen on celebrating but for me it depends on the girl and how serious I am about her," says Vange, 23, in a relationship.

"If she's into celebrating, I will probably make dinner arrangements so we can enjoy something we both like. Food."

Theo, 28, also in a relationship, shares his own fun point of view.

"My girlfriend is in Greece at the moment, so I won't celebrate. Not that we're actually into this love thing."

"There are some interestingly good sales going on Val's Day we try not to miss, like those 'get a spa treatment for two, pay for one' ones. Or dinner discounts," he says.

"Who knows? I might end up grabbing a mate and pretend we're a gay couple!"

How do the girls in our community feel about Valentine's Day celebrations, though? Are they really so into it?

"I'll be watching the Simpsons Halloween specials with a friend of mine. Need to avoid all the happy couples," says Areti, 23 and single.

"You don't need one day in the year to show how much you care, however, at the same time I think the idea of everyone expressing their love openly together as a whole is sweet and sets a nice atmosphere."

"I'm torn with the idea," she confesses.

Elektra, a 21-year-old single woman, appreciates the sentiment of the day but believes people in relationships shouldn't be waiting for a 'special occasion' to
show their partners how much they love them.

"I believe it shouldn't be taken too seriously in terms of spending a whole lot of money on your significant other."

"I'm more the type to appreciate something simple or even a bit silly," she tells.

Nikolina, who is 33 and in a relationship, is not particularly into this celebration, as opposed to her Australian boyfriend.

"Valentine's Day to me is a good excuse to eat more chocolate, I suppose."

"I'm not keen on celebrating, but I'll get in trouble if I forget. Comes with dating an Aussie," she adds.

"Commercialism crap at its best," says married Penny, 32.

"It's designed to encourage spending. I've told my husband to never, ever buy me a Valentines present."

"I usually, however, buy my daughters a little something because their generation is totally caught up in it," she explains.

"Like any other day, I tell my daughters I love them because that's who I am, not because a Hallmark holiday dictates it."

Tina, 34, who is also married, says she and her husband are not doing anything different this day.

"We'll do what we're usually up to on any other day of the year."

"We prefer going out to dinner, trying different restaurants, probably something a little bit fancier," she explains.

Zoe, 34, married and mother to a son, thinks Valentine's Day is "a bunch of bull".

"Yes. It is. Completely unnecessary.

"I show my husband love every day and he does the same," she says, stressing that there are no 'commercial' days for them.

"If you need to celebrate your relationship, why not celebrate your first date anniversary or wedding anniversary?"

Vasilia, 32, is also a married mum.

"It's hard to celebrate when you have three kids. If you feel like offering your significant other a present or a token of love, any day would do."

"This is just a commercial celebration for florists, jewellers and pastry makers," she insists.

"I like to celebrate it. I usually give a token gift," says Helen, 34.

"We used to go for dinner but that's a little impossible now with a baby. I'll make a special dinner at home on the day with wine and so on."

"I believe that we should have many Valentine's Days in our lives. One a week would be great!"

Christina, 31, in a relationship, really enjoys it, too.

"I do celebrate Valentine's Day. For my partner and I, it's an excuse to get away and spend some time together with no technology or interruptions."

"We like to go away to the coast or somewhere nice to stay for a night or two. This gives us some quality time together," she adds.

Χρόνια Πολλά!

*History lesson of the day:
Valentine's Day actually stems from the story of Saint Valentine, a Roman priest who was executed by Emperor Claudius II on 14 February AD270, for performing illegal marriage ceremonies on the Roman battlefield. The emperor believed love and connubial pleasure made the soldiers want to stay alive for their wives, therefore afraid of death and war.

Saint Valentine is not an urban legend, neither was he invented by Hallmark cards, as many may think.

This celebration has become increasingly popular in Australia over the years, but how does the Greek community feel about it, since the Greek Orthodox Church has denounced this day?

The Catholic Church, though, has three more Valentine's to celebrate. English poet Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to associate the saint with courtly love in his Parliament of Foules poem. It wasn't until budding entrepreneur Esther Howland decided to move the tradition of handwritten V cards one step forward that printing Valentine's Day cards turned into a business in 1847.

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Comments

Apologies to all, I made a slight typing error, the name of the husband of Priscilla is Aquila, not Aquinas. Nevertheless I would also like to offer some further thoughts, in that given we Greeks do have a rich culture and history which encompasses many feasts, celebrations and traditions, we do not put a great premium on Valentine's day as it is not part of our culture or our identity. And we should not trade "old lamps" for "new", because we have a beautiful and unique identity and culture...why do we Greeks continuously have this need to substitute or override our own traditions for foreign Western customs that lack any serious substance? Is the spirit of xenomania so ingrained in us? Do we think that all that is foreign and Western is cultured, refined and better? We seriously need to get over this obsession of submitting to all things Western in culture, politics, ideology and so forth. The imbecilic right-left wing divide in politics that created strife for Greeks like the Civil War, came from Western ideologies and post-"Enlightenment" intellectual movements regarding the nature of how we should govern ourselves. Our forefathers fought for the freedom of our Faith, the Fatherland, our own individual rights, our language, our culture and traditions. But since 1821 it is clear that we have merely substituted the Turk and Sharia law for the West and its culture, politics and financial systems. Yes, we Greeks gave birth to the West and inspired it, but we have never been the West, because our legacy was that we have always walked along our own particular path. Of course Valentine's Day is important to the non-Greeks and the non-Orthodox, but then again what else do they have to celebrate? Do they have 7,000-8,000 years of culture and civilisation? Or do we become slaves to fads and trends which are fashionable today and quickly become unfashionable tomorrow?
VALENTINE FACTS OF INTEREST With respects to Nelly Skoufatoglou’s article about Valentine’s day (14/2/15), there are certain things that need to be clarified regarding her history lesson endnote. Firstly, the hagiography and manuscript evidence regarding the life of St Valentine the priest-martyr of Rome, is unclear and contradictory. What we can be certain of, is his name and where he is buried, because even the time and reason for his martyrdom are in dispute. Consequently, the Roman Catholic church removed his name in 1969 from the “General Roman Calendar” of feastdays, due to the aforementioned ambiguities of his hagiography, and thus relegating his feast to the discretion of local churches to comemmorate. Within the Eastern Orthodox Church this not so well known Saint is commemorated on the 6th July, and he is one amongst many Saints named Valentine or Valentina who are honoured within Orthodoxy. Secondly, it was only the Church of Greece amongst other Greek and Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions that called into question the validity and nature of the present-day phenomenon of Valentine’s Day. The concern they expressed was the absence of the commemoration of St Valentine himself, and exactly how were people remembering and honouring him. They also questioned the weak link between his life (which is still a mystery to this day) with the traditions and stories that others have ascribed to him with the present-day secular customs. The other concern that the Church of Greece had, was that Valentine’s day was another example of the imposition of Western culture, modes of behaviour and commercialism that obscure and override Greece’s and other Orthodox nations’ unique culture, identity, traditions and beliefs. On this point they were particularly concerned, as Valentine’s day in its current form, not only seeks to promote a commercialist agenda, but promotes a crass and shallow sense of love based on mere show, erotocism and emotionalism rather than on substance and authenticity. Consequently, the Church of Greece reiterated Orthodoxy;’s stance regarding love as not something confined to one specific day of the year, but an ongoing, lifelong reality which we must manifest everyday, and show towards all peoples without qualifications or conditions. And that this is even moreso for those who are married, as the Orthodox wedding service highlights and even cites regarding the fruit of the couple’s union, their children. To this effect, the Church of Greece designated the feast of Sts Priscilla and Aquinas (13 February) as a paradigm for an “Orthodox Valentine’s Day”. The choice of this married couple who are Saints of the Orthodox Church, was not only due to the reliability and details of their hagiography unlike Valentine the priest-martyr of Rome, but to emphasise the qualities of love that Priscilla and Aquinas had towards each other and towards others. Their story without doubt is an inspiration within the desert of today’s extreme egotistical, shallow, narcissitic, self-centered and self-motivated individualist culture. This couple endured illness, expulsion, persecution, poverty, joy, hard work and much more together. And they extended this genuine love that they had for each other, towards other people without preference or condition via hospitality, charity and community service. All without the expectation of that love being reciprocated, nor with the expectation of gaining converts for Christ, but as an example of what God’s love within the world is and what love between two people truly should be. Mode of Life Project www.modeoflife.org

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