Make the most of this day for romance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 12:00am

Whether done with traditional red roses, a surprise helicopter ride to Macau or a message flashed on the Times Square Jumbotron screen, lovers of all ages will today be proving that the art of romance is alive and well.

The enthusiasm with which Valentine's Day has been embraced in Hong Kong has, without doubt, left hoteliers, restaurateurs, florists and other beneficiaries of this ancient tradition with smiles on their faces. But they are not the only ones. From its distant origins in the days of pagan Rome to today's thoroughly modern interpretation, this annual celebration of romantic love has managed to maintain its appeal.

For this part of world, it represents one of the most enduring and successful foreign imports, rivalled only by Christmas. It does not seem to suffer from being close in proximity to its Chinese equivalent on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year.

There can be no denying that Valentine's Day has been hijacked by the commercial world, along with Christmas, Mother's Day and other festivals with religious roots. But whether celebrated with a champagne bath in a glitzy hotel suite or through the simple expression of those most powerful three words, the meaning of this day of lovers has certainly not been lost. The many different ways in which the message can now be communicated has only served to enforce the tradition and all that it stands for.

Those who are struck by Cupid's bow can choose from a bewildering assortment of innovative gifts with which to signal their devotion. You can name a constellation of stars after the object of your affections or have your DNA crystallised along with that of your lover - and wear it for all to see in a pendant around your neck. It is all a long way from the story of Saint Valentine himself, although he would probably approve. There are various versions of the legend, concerning a priest in Roman times who met an untimely death. But most agree that before his demise, this martyr to the Christian faith sent a message to his amour: 'Remember your Valentine, I love you.'

It is easy, in these cynical times, to dismiss the celebration as a commercially driven folly, far-removed from the traditional notion of romantic love. But is the often unromantic nature of our modern world that gives Valentine's Day its enduring quality. It provides an excuse to wear our hearts on our sleeves, without risk of derision. We are reminded to say and to do the things for our loved ones that perhaps we should be doing more often throughout the year. As for secret admirers, it allows them to make their presence - if not their identity - known.

Spare a thought, today, for those who have no one with whom to share the occasion. And make the most of this time-honoured opportunity to indulge your romantic side.