Saturday, February 13, 2010

I do love me some V-day

We went grocery shopping today and brought along the camera just in case we happened to see anything interesting, because you never know, right? Well, it happens to be Valentine’s Eve so of course we ended up something interesting since Valentine’s Day is fast becoming one of the most-loved holidays in these parts (despite all the naysayers) if decorations are indicative of preference.

Just a few days ago the flower shops bordering the tracks by Midan Digla were ordinary flower shops. By today, however, they’d erupted into a sultry display of Valentine pomp and fluff and stuff.


I told Andrew that I’d settle for no less than this sickeningly huge and rouge teddy bear that could swallow me whole. *gag*


Apparently Valentine’s Day holds a little controversy in the Arab world. Daniel Pipes is good at kicking up controversy and lists several riveting dictates from political and religious leaders on his site. I wasn’t so sure that I believed that Valentine’s Day was an issue in Egypt since the flowery, perfumey, heart-shaped evidence everywhere leads me to believe the opposite, but I also found a blog of a disgruntled local who claims allegiance to Egypt’s Day of Love…even though she had forgotten the holiday existed.

Perhaps the naysayers can explain this display:


Or am I the only one creeped out by the hanging teddy bears?

The problem with Valentine’s Day is that it is seen as a vulgar, mushy holiday, and Christian to boot. I’ve never seen it that way, though.

When I went to school I had to bring a Valentine for every one of my classmates—of course, I grew up in a Socialist country so it might be different in other less-Socialist places…but I don’t think it is because I had to help my tutee make Valentine's for each of her classmates this past week. Even the ones she didn’t like. That was hard for her.

She had to write a compliment for everyone. 

“Omar,” she’d gulp.

“Tell me about Omar,” I’d prompt, “What do you like about Omar?”


“What’s something nice about Omar?”


“What’s Omar good at?”


“Just write: You are a good friend.”


By the way, she has a kid named Putt in her class. I really hope that his father likes golf. A lot. I can think of no other reason to name a child Putt.

I still don’t think of Valentine’s Day as a “romantic” holiday. Andrew and I make pizza. Write a nice note to each other. Make sure to wish his mom a Happy Birthday. That kind of thing.

It’s a nice opportunity to be reminded to remember to appreciate each other. A candlelit dinner might be nice *hint, hint* but I wouldn’t say that Valentine’s Day promotes promiscuity.

We already made Valentines for Family Home Evening. We had a very short lesson on Valentine’s Day that went kind of like this:

Me: (reads brief summary of first paragraph of Wikipedia article)

Me: So, what do we celebrate on Valentine’s Day?

Rachel: Hearts!

Me: Okay, yes. What do the hearts mean?

Rachel: Love!

Me: That’s right! And who do we love?

Rachel: Rachel!

Me: And who else?

Rachel: Daddy and Mommy!

Me: And who else?

Rachel: Miriam!

Me: And our grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and everybody. Now we’ll make Valentines.

Everyone made one for everybody, except for Rachel who made about thirtnine* for Miriam. She loves her sister.


My favorite Valentine is from Miriam. She writes:

Dear Mommy,

Oh, boy, do you ever make some good milk. Nom, nom, nom. I love you!



Rachel and I made owl Valentines for some of her friends, the kids I tutor, and her nursery class. And Andrew. Here’s the one I made for Andrew:


And the copy-cat one that Rachel made for him:


See? It’s an innocent holiday used by classmates, friends, and family to remember to love each other a little more. It also happens to be highly commercialized and while we personally don’t buy into that, apparently the local florists have.

* Thirtnine comes after twelve when Rachel is counting, but only if six is skipped and if she repeats eight, nine, ten, eleven several times before saying, “Twelve, thirtnine!”

** Meme rhymes with cream. It’s been Miriam’s nickname since before her birth due to Rachel’s inability to pronounce Miriam. Also it’s a “is a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”


  1. i only "buy" into the holiday because it's my anniversary, otherwise i'd treat it like a normal day as well. but i think anniversaries count as a reason to be promiscuous, don't you think?

  2. Meme is a cute nickname. Seems like one that may stick for many years to come.

    I also think Valentine's is commercial. My parents would get me and my brother little gifts, maybe an outfit (especially during the growing years), but I'm not too fond of overpaying for flowers and buying a huge heart shaped box of chocolates. I loved the Valentine giving and receiving in school, but I hated it in junior high and high school as I was not given "roses" or whatever. Again, I am totally with you on the whole Valentine's commercial thing.

  3. Cute nickname and so close to ours (I don't know if you remember Meme, pronounced "May may"). These days it sometimes gets shortened to be pronounced "maym." Anyway, just some ideas in case you want to tweak Meme. I like it.

  4. @ Geneen -- I don't think it counts as promiscuity if you are married. Also, Happy Anniversary!

    @ Bridget -- We often call Miriam Maym, too. It's like the Meme alternative. :) For the longest time we couldn't tell what Rachel was saying because it sounded so much like "mean."

    "Is that baby mean?"

    Thus, the pronunciation Meme was promoted. Maym is definitely a close second. :)

    I love your nickname Meme...and I also like Mimi, but that's more short for Amelia. Anyways...

  5. Cute Valentines! I love the owl one. Too cute. :)

    I'm glad Rachel knows what Valentine's Day is all about. She's too cute too.

  6. Please just go to the Jihad Watch website for the Egyptian clerical damnation (and threats) about Valentines being un-Islamic. Valentines Day is decried in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt (yes), Indonesia, Malaysia (a very serious business there), and especially in Saudi Arabia where it is ILLEGAL and roses are a black market item. This is the place where a businesswoman was sentenced to 800 lashes for having coffee with a male colleague in the Riyadh airport. Because so many Muslim women are fighting for the right not to wear hijab and not to be under the control of fathers, brothers, uncles and imams -- and where both sexes are trying to get the right to actually date and know a person before they are FORCED to marry inside strict tribal demands that use them as financial tools rather than seeing them as people -- I think it's incumbent on all of us to be as informed as possible about what their situation really is, and to stop relying on propaganda press to paint a rosy picture of what life is like for the last people on earth to be denied rights-based constitutions that break their status as pawns of tribes and religions. Muslim Women, I note, are not allowed to marry outside the religion. Think about that. Most of them have mates chosen by fathers. Most may be legally married off for a brideprice (paid to the father) by the time they are 10. In Taliban Pakistan, the age of majority for a girl -- the age of FORCED veiling -- is 7.

    The surge toward the celebration of Valentine's Day in Islamic countries -- which is repressed everywhere -- is the impetus toward some ability to express sexual and social interest that is not under the control of parents, tribe and religion. That is why there are imamic fatawa (plural of fatwa) against Valentine's Day in every Muslim-majority culture, the aggregate of which now numbers 57.

    P.S. A "meme" is a social or biological or psychological construct that frames, controls or inhibits genetic, social or psychological expression.

    P.S.S. As Winston Churchill said, the hardest thing to learn to do is to read the opinions of people that you will NEVER agree with to look for the kernel of truth they possess that you do not. You will not like Jihad Watch and other sites like it. Neither will I. But given the fact that the mainstream media will not publish at least 90% of what is going on, it's good to seek reliable external sources like JW, which at least will report it (with liberal conservative commentary!) and to regularly read the Jakarta Post, the Pakistan Times, Ashwaq Alawsat (London), the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune so you can see what real MODERATE Muslims have to say about their situation. Right now, my guess is, you are mostly reading propaganda, and that's a shame, because you seem like an intelligent, thinking person who wants to be fair. You won't be fair, though, until you get a lot more information than you have right now.

  7. Wow. I can't even tell if you agree or disagree with what I'm saying...or what exactly you're trying to say.

    Let me sum up my post: some people like Valentine's Day here and some people really don't.

    I imagine it's a lot like how some people are okay with having an Eid postal stamp in America while others are quite opposed to it.

    But what do I know? I only read into propaganda.

  8. Hooray for Jihad Watch trolls wandering around the internets to spout their anonymous opinions.

    And define words that have already been defined in the post.


  9. Ummm . . . Yeah . . . I like Valentines Day. I made heart-shaped pink pancakes for my kids that day. I think I unknowingly made some huge political statement by doing that. Ooooh. I love being edgy and all political for breakfast.

  10. No kidding, Catherine. I know you--everything you do is so obviously motivated by political innuendo. :)