Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but friends, classmates, or co-workers will be talking about it for days to come, rest assured. Some acquaintances probably had a wonderful, romantic day, which they will tell you about in uncomfortable detail; some probably sat at home and had a great time with movies and take out, which they might complain about; some likely had a great night out with friends; some may have found love on Valentine’s Day unexpectedly, and those are the friends who will probably talk your ear off, because what on earth could be quite so Hollywood as meeting the could-be love of your life unexpectedly on Valentine’s Day? But all of these cases stem from the same thing — the expectations people have of Valentine’s Day.
February has historically been associated with a celebration of love and related phenomena, but February 14th specifically is called Valentine’s Day in honor of one (two, or possibly three) saint(s) named Valentine. All three saints around which the day could have been named were martyred, so at its actual, historical core, Valentine’s Day isn’t strictly about love — it’s about commemorating the death of some dead-as-nails saints. It’s also speculated that Valentine’s Day became a holiday to trump the pagan holiday, celebrated around the same time, of Lupercalia, so if that’s the case than it’s a holiday about religious imperialism, more or less. Either way, it doesn’t seem like such a nice thing when you look at its roots — it’s either centered around death or the persecution of non-Christian religion, which, let’s face it, doesn’t seem all that loving.
Since its conception, however, Valentine’s Day has become a day for significant others everywhere to stress about for weeks, trying to come up with the most romantic date possible. It’s a day for chocolate and flowers, cards and words of love. Above all, it’s a day that is supposed to be, unequivocally, special. At least, that’s what the Hallmark cards and romantic comedies tell us. Media and marketing have Valentine’s Day so ingrained in people’s minds as a day that is supposed to be entirely different from all the rest, but if it’s also a day about love, it doesn’t seem like it should be that different; love shouldn’t be conditioned on the date.
So while celebrating Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be reserved for those presently in love, and no one should ever feel bad about not having a date on Valentine’s Day (also, it’s worth remembering all of the terrible, awful dates you’ve been on in your lifetime and realizing that at least you’re not doing that on Valentine’s Day), there seems to be a bit of a flaw in the concept, something of a disconnect.
Instead of stressing about what you’re going to do for a loved one on Valentine’s Day, and worrying about grand gestures and violin music and roses, make every day with your significant other special. Don’t get them cards and flowers everyday, of course, because that would get ridiculous. But the point of these cards and chocolates and flowers and grand romantic gestures is to communicate to the recipient that you love and care about them — it’s about showing them that you took the time to plan something specifically with them in mind, or picked out a piece of jewelry just for them. It’s about the statement, not the way it’s made, so tell the person you love that you love them. Often. Regardless of the date. Say it with words — words of love or affection or devotion long predate the nebulous history of Valentine’s Day, or the pervasiveness of the advertising world. Don’t depend on Valentine’s Day to buoy your relationship; do it yourself!
And even if you’re not in a relationship, and you’re one of those people who spent Valentine’s Day quietly, either with some friends or with a movie or a good book, the same sentiment can apply — there’s little more therapeutic than kicking back and indulging yourself in some greasy take out, so show some love for yourself in that way a little more often. Every once in a while, when you’re feeling stress, let yourself procrastinate a little — taken an afternoon off to take a walk or read a book or catch up on your favorite television show. Cut out part of your night to spend on you instead of other people or work.
Love is a many splendored thing (or something), but for many reasons Valentine’s Day seems to be much derided — more and more often, it seems there are just as many anti-Valentine’s Day parties as parties for the holiday. But there doesn’t seem to be a need for such pessimism, nor is there any reason to limit a celebration of you, or a loved one, to one day a year — give a little every day or every week or even every month, and you’d be amazed at how much better it can make you and your loved ones feel (not to mention, if you’re an amazing significant other every day of the year, Valentine’s Day can seem a whole lot less stressful.)