St. Valentine’s Day: This year, don’t forget friends …

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14: The National Retail Federation predicts that Valentine’s Day gift giving is rising, once again, for most Americans! Of course, that’s terrific economic news for our nation. The poll of more than 9,000 men and women shows that total holiday spending is likely to top $17 billion this year—with spending rising in all retail categories associated with Valentine’s Day.

Where is all that money going? Jewelry, candy, flowers, cards, special dinners and new clothes are the big categories in our shopping lists.
Who is spending—and who is receiving? Brace yourself! In the Federation survey, Americans said they plan to spend an average of more than $70, each. Parents plan to spend an average of $25 on their children. Pet owners are likely to spend about $5 on their animals!
And, How about our friends? In terms of the money we’re laying out—our “friends” rank somewhere between our children and our pets. Survey respondents plan to spend an average of $7 on friends.


Want the facts? Wikipedia has an extensive overview of Valentine’s Day history and culture.
Who wrote the first Valentine’s Day love letter? Geoffrey Chaucer usually gets the credit for a couple of lines he penned in his 1382 work: Parliament of Birds. Adapted for contemporary English spelling, Chaucer wrote: “For this was St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate.”
Who was the “real” St. Valentine? That’s a trick question, because there were many. Valentine was a popular name in the era of early Christian martyrdom. Saints by that name apparently dropped like flies. The two martyrs honored with Feb. 14 feast days were Christian clergy, killed in Roman persecution.
Is this truly an international holiday? Sure is! You may enjoy reading a snapshot of Valentine’s Day culture from the Straits Times, a major newspaper serving the regions between southeast Asia and Indonesia. One popular item in that part of the world this year? Teddy bears.


It’s true. ReadTheSpirit reports on the challenges congregations face because we tend to focus mainly on married couples—in an era when half of American men and women aren’t married. Read “A Valentine to the Divorced,” by Carolyne Call. And, read our interview with Carolyne: “Church Growth Takes More than Reaching Out to the Married.” Both columns are valuable reading for congregational leaders.


Dr. Benjamin Pratt, author of our new Guide for Caregiving, urges us to remember friends on Valentine’s Day. The new Retail Federation report, showing that we tend to overlook our friends at this time of year, suggests that Pratt’s advice may be right on target.
Here is Benjamin Pratt’s advice …

When you need a friend—be a friend. That simple proposal may never be more applicable than at the starry-eyed, romantic, idealized times of our lives like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Loneliness, self-pity and even bitterness can ooze through our veins when we imagine that others live the dream and we do not. If that happens to you, you are not alone. It is time to act, not just feel.

In A Guide For Caregivers, I advise the 65 million Americans who are caregivers to reach out and connect with others—for your own spiritual wellbeing. Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to do that. For many, the loneliness of Valentine’s Day can penetrate the marrow of our bones. Think of someone who needs a friend. Invite him or her for tea or coffee. Eagerly and respectfully listen to your friend’s story—and your friend might even listen to yours.  Either way, your gift of listening will bolster you against your own ache. Don’t forget to thank your friend for giving you an hour of his or her life. Spiritually healthy caregivers learn that we often are the ones who need the blessing of another’s care.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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