Oh, what to write about this week? I have two great American topics from which to choose: last weekend’s Super Bowl or next week’s Valentine’s Day. After due consideration, and in the great British spirit of compromise, I have decided to cover both.
Once a year my husband, who is normally not a sports fan, seems to connect with his inner caveman and focus on the Super Bowl. When I suggested we dine on beef stroganoff and a nice red wine Sunday evening, he looked at me like I had two heads.
“What’s wrong with pizza, chips and beer?” he said. “It’s the Super Bowl.” He actually said “it is the Su-Per-Bow-All,” pronouncing it like I was a dumb 9-year-old without the benefit of English as my first language.
For a sport played and followed by only about 5 percent of the world’s population, the statistics surrounding football’s championship are mind-blowing. Over 150 million people watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, the most in American TV history. According to online sports community SBNation, well over a billion chicken wings were eaten on Super Bowl Sunday, which was the second biggest food consumption day of the year – beaten only by Thanksgiving, a holiday designed around feasting.
As an English woman, I really don’t understand the thrill of the Super Bowl. But it is as important to my husband as Valentine’s Day is to me. To be fair to my husband, I know from first-hand experience that he can be wonderful on Valentine’s Day – sending me romantic cards, beautiful flowers and the occasional gift. I guess Valentine’s Day is my own version of Super Bowl Sunday.
The origins of St. Valentine’s Day are mysterious – in fact, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine, all of whom were martyred. We do know that February has long been a month of romance – England’s Geoffrey Chaucer in the Middle Ages writes about Valentine’s Day and the tradition of courtly love, and handwritten valentines were popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1700s.
Of course, as with many European traditions, the Americans built on the original ideas and took them to new heights. In the 1840s in Massachusetts, Esther Howland began to mass produce valentine cards made of embossed paper lace. Now, the U.S. Greeting Card Association gives an annual “Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary.” And my goodness did she start something.
Consider this: an estimated 190 million valentines are sent in the U.S. every year, and 85 percent of these are sent by women – some of them to children and other family members – and some to themselves. In addition, an estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent last year. And that is before we start to think about roses, chocolates, diamonds (for a lucky few) and other gifts.
Today, the American approach to Valentine’s Day dominates the rest of the world. In fact, some Islamic countries have banned, or attempted to ban, this holiday, so strong is its association with the U.S. and western culture.
People ask me if English or American men are more romantic. It is hard to say since it depends on the individual. But I will say that Americans generally are more comfortable saying “I love you,” which is a good thing, and are usually less repressed about expressing their emotions than the average British person.
This time of year strikes me as distinctly American, and Super Bowl Sunday is a very American tradition. In my opinion, I think it is lucky that this macho celebration is balanced by the romantic rituals of Valentine’s Day a week or so later.
By the way, my husband and I compromised for dinner Sunday night. We still had beef stroganoff but ate it while watching the game. Boy, he better come through good on Feb. 14 this year.
God bless America!
Francis grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl, and English dogs. She can be contacted at email@example.com or www.lesleyfrancispr.com.