Americans really really love celebrating and I like that. We need to recognise and appreciate positive and good things so that we don’t get lost or overwhelmed with the bad things that are all too often greedier for our attention.
The country that gave the world employee of the month is very very good at positive celebration. They are also good at holidays. Before New Year balloons had deflated and while the last of the Christmas decorations languished in the bargain bins, Valentine’s Day hearts started appearing: glossy red hearts were drizzled on the tops of doughnuts, cakes changed their shape and shiny ribboned boxes jostled for space on supermarket shelves. As the day drew closer, people hung garlands and flags covered in hearts and, of course, there were the greeting cards. Always the cards.
Valentine’s Day is the time for romantic declaration, traditionally with an unsigned card delivered anonymously to the object of your affection, but these days there are also cards to say “I love you” to your grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, granddaughter and grandson or even your pet. On the TV, I heard that children were encouraged to make Valentine’s cards not just for their mums and dads or a special someone but to everyone in their class because in these politically correct times it’s important that no one is left out. It’s all a great big heart-shaped ruse.
The world’s biggest manufacturer of greeting cards attracts criticism for commercializing celebration and Valentine’s Day would be one of their biggest successes. Some would say it’s smart business and it is undoubtedly a clever strategy to create a need where none existed before. Of course the world’s biggest manufacturer of greeting cards says that all they do is respond to what people want – not the other way around. Maybe that’s true, but how do they explain National Nurses’/Doctors’/Clergy/Boss or Executive Assistant’s Day? And what about Sweetest Day?
Sweetest Day is observed on the third Saturday in October, mainly in the midwestern US and parts of the north east, with cards, chocolates and small gifts. Sound familiar? Here’s a clue: 80% of Sweetest Day greeting cards are heart shaped.
The name represents a not very subtle connection with confectionery so it is no surprise that Sweetest Day began when an employee at a Cleveland confectionery company started giving away sweets to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages.
Fundamentally it’s a very sweet idea but as sometimes happens, the idea over-reached itself. Could it be a coincidence that the holiday falls midway between Father’s Day and Christmas and is not based on any one religious belief or focussed on a specific family relationship? I think not. The world’s biggest manufacturer of greeting cards joined the party and gives the world over 150 different cards designed for family members, sweethearts, coworkers, acquaintances and pretty much everyone else.
As I said, I’m all for celebrating. Showing appreciation to the people we know is a sweet thing to do but how about this for an idea. Let’s do it without a card or a box of sweets but with a word of encouragement, a smile or an act of kindness. And let’s not limit it to a single day but do it as often as possible. That’s an idea that I could get behind.
Categories: An American Adventure