Take time to make Valentine's Day count

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2007, 12:00am

There is no shortage of gimmicks this Valentine's Day - Hello Kitty wedding vows on the MTR, big-screen messages of love at Times Square and free gifts for giving to charities. All around are special offers on dinners, flowers, jewellery and clothes. This is truly one of the big commercial events of the year.

Retailers cannot be blamed for taking advantage of a traditional occasion to push profits up. Besides, we all like to receive gifts, especially if they are from someone special.

Nor can companies like the MTR be lambasted for using the day set aside to celebrate love for self-promotion. The idea of a wedding themed around a cartoon character and using public transport as the way to get to the ceremony may not be everyone's ideal way of exchanging sacred vows, but it will certainly be a never-to-be-forgotten experience for the couple involved and a spectacle for those who watch.

Amid all the commercialism and hype, though, we should take time today to get back to the basics of Valentine's Day with those people who truly count in our lives. This is the day, after all, to celebrate our love for them, be it with a simple card or gift, flowers, a word of thanks or some extra-special quality time together. This should happen all the time with such people, of course, and quite often it does. But life in Hong Kong, often hectic and with schedules that do not easily overlap, can just as frequently make that difficult.

Trying to make up for such transgressions with expensive gifts is tempting. A big sparkly diamond, eye-catching flower arrangement, designer clothes or a huge box of heart-shaped chocolates will certainly let it be known that there is someone out there willing to spend cash. But as The Beatles pointed out in a song two generations ago, no matter if it is a diamond ring or money that is given, you cannot buy love.

The reason is because love is kindness, patience and respect; indefinable qualities that come about through what is thought, said and done. A gentle, soothing word to a colleague under stress at the office, a shoulder massage for a son or daughter after a muscle-hurting sporting competition or asking about a loved one's day and then really listening to the answer: that is what love is all about.

Those should be everyday occurrences, not special events to be revealed once a year. They cannot be replicated with fashion, glitz or luxury.

There is nothing wrong with revealing our love to someone we find special today or reiterating it to our partners. Those around us we cherish should likewise be told of how much we care for them.

But let us not get carried away with the blaring advertisements saying buy this or that, or pay over the odds for something always on offer.

Valentine's Day is a celebration of love - and not just another excuse to spend money.