Valentine’s Day on the Bay

Just when winter begins to feel like it’s dragging on and December’s merriment is a distant memory, along comes Valentine’s Day. It’s a holiday meant to celebrate romance, a day set aside for couples to express their love, and perhaps a chance to spark a new relationship.

At first blush, Valentine’s Day customs seem sweet and harmless. We send a card, maybe flowers, or plan a special dinner to make our significant other feel special. But then, the enemy creeps in. I’m talking about holiday hype. 

Holiday hype lasts at least six weeks leading up to February 14. It’s that inadequate feeling we get when national jewelry chains start running ads for diamond necklaces as if to suggest that grand gestures equal stronger love. It’s the onslaught of red and pink in the greeting card aisle and the floral department rife with cellophane-wrapped bouquets, teddy bears and chocolate (the flavor of which we won’t know until we actually bite into it, praying it’s not the toffee kind that sticks in our teeth).

With the commercially fueled holiday hype comes an even bigger foe: high expectations. Seeing grandiose Valentine’s gifts on TV and in stores, we may wonder what our own significant other may be planning for the 14th. Even for singles, unrealistic expectations can creep in. We indulge in daydreams of a new love or becoming “more than friends” with someone we know, like a romantic comedy come to life (complete with a chase scene in the airport followed by an extra-long kiss).

Let’s be honest: holiday hype and high expectations often bring disappointment. That’s why this issue of Bay Weekly is stepping away from the usual Valentine’s Day customs. Instead, we’re celebrating how the Chesapeake Bay does love.

Inside these pages, we look at the fascinating ways that animals couple up in the Bay’s ecosystem this time of year. During the Middle Ages, February 14th was commonly believed to be the first day of birds’ mating season, and love is certainly already blooming among Chesapeake early breeders like bald eagles and owls. Photojournalist Mark Hendricks captures on camera the animals that are courting partners as spring slowly approaches.  

We’re also tracing the meaning behind the love language of flowers, a discipline known as floriography (who knew?) in this week’s Gardening for Health column.

For the singles out there wishing for a Hallmark movie moment this Valentine’s Day, we suggest a better option: make plans to get out on our local waterways with like-minded people. Singles on Sailboats, featured this week, is a local social group that connects solo boat owners with friendly crew and companions. 

Surely tacking back and forth across the Bay on a nice breeze is a better way to enjoy another person’s company than navigating the waters of holiday hype and expectations.