Today might not be the day to buy flowers (they’re overpriced, especially gloomy red roses). And tonight, it’s impossible to find a table in a restaurant if you haven’t booked. Every single store, from the most popular to the most refined, will bring out all the red they have to decorate their windows. No sooner have we forgotten Christmas than Valentine’s Day arrives, Hallmark’s day of the year, featuring mass produced declarations of love, chocolate, perfume, balloons, massage oil, teddy bears, kissing doves or cupids shooting naughty arrows, cellophane-wrapped flowers, fine lingerie and heart-shaped jewelry.

On Valentine’s Day, everyone falls back into their adolescence, except children, who play at being grown-ups. “Don’t give your daughter too much pocket money in February: she will spend it on a teddy bear that she will give to her big bear,” says a joke currently circulating in Lebanon. In Saudi Arabia, believe it or not, the fashion is to offer a pet cat, dog, rabbit, goldfish or other animals, hidden under a jumble of tissue paper and ribbons. Throughout the Arab world, as elsewhere, the celebrations range from themed receptions in appropriate dress through candlelit dinners with singers and musicians, to spa sessions for two, most often in five-star hotels.

Perfumes as magnetic clouds

Where does Valentine’s Day come from? We could ask the same question of Halloween. Two holidays that are neither official, nor national, nor religious, but which celebrate feelings that paralyze us and cause hormonal storms and adrenal tsunamis: love and fear.

Speaking of love, how can you forget your first Valentine’s Day in the presence of someone with whom, a few days or weeks earlier, you exchanged messages or glances, someone for whom you blushed? And that evening, because it was suddenly that special day and everyone was doing it, we put on our best clothes and spent hours looking in the mirror, we sprayed ourselves with perfume, the smell of which we remember to this day as it formed a magnetic cloud around, changed the quality of the atmosphere, our whole climate and melted our personal pack ice. We went to this party full of people, but where, seeing each other, we found ourselves alone in the world.

Something happened, like lightning in a storm, violent and obvious, accidental but predictable. First the eyes, then the hands, then the lips that met, and beyond the skin, the fusion of two souls who believed that at this very moment they touched infinity to “love each other with a love that was more than love” as Edgar Poe says in Annabelle Lee, his poem later sung by Joan Baez. It’s never easy to say “I love you” when you’re in love. These words strip you, expose your fragility and leave you at the mercy of the object of your passion, in danger of rejection, abandonment, of falling without a safety net. And Valentine’s Day, thankfully, offers you the ideal excuse to go there without losing too many feathers.

Formidable weapons

It is said that it was the poet William Chaucer who, in the 14th century, gave Cupid’s bow and quiver to Saint Valentine, a saint from the two hundred-somethings. Perhaps there were several Valentines in one, after all, the name Valentine was fashionable at the time. There’s been a patron saint of beekeepers named Valentine and another who watched over epileptics. But Chaucer decided, in his poem “The Parliament of Fowls,” that, “Seynt Valentynes day” is the day “whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make”.

On February 14, therefore, the birds pair up. But if you live in a Mediterranean city, you only have to open the window to hear the cats howling their despair at suddenly feeling alone and their urgency to unite with someone, to satisfy nature, which demands that one reproduce at this precise moment. To view things a little more cynically, after the comparative silence that followed the end of year celebrations, British post offices found, at the beginning of the 19th century, that sending cards on Valentine’s Day was pretty profitable and encouraged the fashion by developing a whole range of postable novelties.

This season, to be on the right side of the force, we could choose among the winning perfumes of the Fifi awards. For her, A Chant For The Nymph created by Alberto Morillas for Gucci, and for him, Dior Homme Eau De Toilette by perfumer François Demachy. And if you prefer niche perfumes, you would go for Tarbouch Afandi by Ideo perfumers, a fragrance that embraces the smells of the Middle East, from honey-tobbaco shishas to cedar wood, violet leaves and orange blossoms.

Fancy a new dress to add some magic to the party? What better inspiration than the Valentino Spring Summer 2022 collection? With such a name and this signature red, it is obvious. In jewelry, another inspiration, full of poetry, would be an item from the Daisy Love collection by Tabbah, a diamond daisy with a daffodil diamond heart and articulated petals. Other than that, a teddy bear is both the cutest and most mundane option.

In short, it seems that Hallmark cards and quotes, chocolates, red roses, teddy bears or rubies are, while disguised as often ridiculous objects, formidable precision weapons that target the heart on your chosen one.