Last night instead of a romantic evening for two, we decided to have friends over to join in a fun tradition from my family: heart-shaped pizza. My Dad, as an artist, would often look for reasons to add significance or visual accent to life events, so on Valentine’s day he would take his already-much-celebrated pizza and add some of the day’s festivities into the meal. We decided to adopt (or co-opt?) the tradition for last night. Rachel even felt inspired to copy his style of meticulously cutting pepperoni into hearts as well.
… and the dog begrudgingly agreed to help with the disposal of pepperoni scraps.
(We had the extra challenge of having to prepare a meal that included options for gluten-free, dairy-free, and meat-free diets, so I’m pretty sure we earned some kind of Foodie Merit Badge for pulling that off on a pizza night.)
Pizza-as-hearts is mostly just a pun in food form; playing with shapes that we associate with a certain day. Nothing particularly symbolic. But I think it’s always worth reexamining the way we symbolize our celebrations. A day about love, but do we really celebrate love? Spending a little too much money, expecting prescribed theatrics of romantic expression, giving the same flowers and sitting at the same tables at the same overpriced restaurants as dozens of other couples around us?
A moment to celebrate (or be forced to remember) romance is not out of place. A time to celebrate the people in your life, or the Person you spend your life with, is a beautiful reminder of the things we take for granted that are secretly keeping us afloat. But we shouldn’t let “traditions” become monotonous rituals. “Thanksgiving — eat too much. Christmas — buy too much. New Year’s — drink too much. Valentine’s Day — spend too much”. What were the real meanings that were being celebrated by these events in the first place, and are our traditions still making them real to us?
For Rachel and I, right now, a lot of the love we experience is woven into and tangled up in our community. We have good friends who bring a lot of different flavors of love and excitement and companionship and inspiration into our lives, and without really thinking about it we decided Valentine’s Day should be time celebrating that spirit of friendship in our lives. We had 6 other friends join at our table with some pizza and salad and pretty-cheap-wine, and it was satisfying.
Maybe next year we won’t do the same thing — it’s not about getting rid of date nights. But is your date night important because it expresses and celebrates the unique character and journey of the love in your life, or is it important because you’ll feel like you screwed up if you did something different?
Let’s remember to create authentic love traditions in our lives.