February 14th is in the US celebrated as Valentine's Day. And with the usual enthusiasm with which Americans celebrate, Valentine's Day has become something you cannot fail to notice.
The tradition originates from England where sending love notes around this specific time is recorded as early as the late 18th century. In the US, special Valentine's cards were made already in 1849. Go into any store that sells greeting cards and you will find that this is a proud tradition.
As the US has received immigrants from all over the world, national holidays from many countries figure somewhat in the American calendar. For people who have no tradition what so ever with these holidays, it is interesting to see how eagerly they are promoted. It has lead a little to celebration fatigue and with the prominent display of greeting cards for these occasions some holidays have been labeled "Hallmark Holidays" - days that really are mainly celebrated to exchange greeting cards from the Hallmark card press. Forgive me, I didn't coin the phrase but it does make me sound as a curmudgeon.
I will be even more grim by announcing publicly that I don't write Valentine's cards to my family and friends. When my children were so young that preparing Valentines' for all their class mates was homework, I would support their effort. All the same, they could see that I found it a bit phony. I much prefer that people share their sentiments unprompted by a date in the calendar.
But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't send loving notes or tell your family members that you love them. Particularly if they have gone with you to another country and feel a bit unsure of themselves, it is more than ever important for them to know that they are loved. It may be a stressful time, there may be so many things not going right - it is easy to forget to put energy into ones most important relationships.
If you have school age children that still need looking after, try to meet for lunch every now and then - it may be easier than arranging for a babysitter. Arrange with friends that your kids can have sleepovers every now and then so you can have adult time with your partner and return the favor. If you have grandparents/close family visiting, make sure to let them babysit an evening while you get out of the house. Remember to express your appreciation for each other.
No, this has not suddenly become an advise column on relationships. It is just a reminder that people have only so much room in their stress barrel, and if you have filled it up to the brim with "moving to an other country stressors" and "lack of social network stressors", you really don't need "dysfunctional marriage stressors" as well. Little bumps on the road that would have been easily overcome if you had your network of friends and family at hand, can grow totally out of proportion if there is no more room in your stress barrel.
So what should you do for Valentine's Day? That is totally up to you. But make sure that if you have a partner, you agree if this is something you want to celebrate. If you are already stressed out and your partner can't even be bothered to arrange something for Valentine's Day even though the whole country is swarming with pink hearts and chocolate boxes, it can be a real let-down if you expected something else. Even if you never would have celebrated Valentine's Day had you been home. So voice your hopes and expectations - nobody are mind readers.
So here is to Love, to chocolates in whatever form, and to my dear husband who doesn't need a marked day in the calendar to voice his appreciation.
Happy Valentine's Day!