In Defense of Valentine’s Day
A day to celebrate all kinds of love
By: Tosin Faseemo
Over the past few weeks, stores throughout the country have replaced festive Christmas decor and various New Year’s merchandise with roses and chocolate-covered desserts— a clear reminder of the impending Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate love and romance. To those who aren’t in relationships, the holiday seems like little more than another annoying reminder of their singleness. To those who dislike mandatory displays of affection, the day is just another made-up holiday designed to commodify the beautiful mystery that is human connection. But contrary to these views, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate all kinds of love, whether it is platonic, romantic, familial, or even self-love.
Valentine’s Day traces back to the Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival in mid-February. Young women were beaten with animal hides in hopes of becoming more fertile. Each woman was then paired with a man who would often become their husbands. In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day in order to Christianize the occasion. Years later, 14th-century poet Chaucer wrote a poem relating the day to the time of year when birds began to mate.
While the holiday and its festivities changed tremendously, the event continued to be increasingly associated with romantic love. A tradition was born where lovers would send handwritten messages to each other as proof of their affection. During the mid-1800s, Esther Howland created specially adorned cards in America, and this practice continued the development of mass-produced Valentines, along with the rise of Hallmark in 1913. About $1 billion of cards are now sold for Valentine’s Day, and chocolates, flowers, and other items are sold for billions of more dollars. Additionally, some people splurge on jewelry, resulting in billions of more dollars of sales.
Ideas about the purpose of Valentine's Day are diversifying, not just in terms of who it is meant for, but also in the way it is portrayed in the media. Recently, there have been various efforts to make Valentine’s Day a more inclusive holiday. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) recognized a lack of media coverage surrounding queer couples on Valentine’s Day. In response, they developed a Valentine's Day Media Resource Kit to help media creators “integrate LGBT couples' romantic celebrations” into the holiday, featuring numerous ideas for stories and potential interviewees. While these efforts focus on romantic love, GLAAD’s work is proof of how the conventional way of thinking about Valentine’s Day can be changed.
This movement toward inclusivity influenced the creation of the fictional “Galentine’s Day” featured on season 2, episode 16 of “Parks and Recreation.” Main character Leslie Knope celebrated her female friends with a party to remind them of how important they were to her. Her light-hearted joy and genuine appreciation for her friends demonstrate that Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate various forms of love. In this case, platonic love was emphasized as a valid emotional bond.
Valentine’s Day can be used to show others how important they are, even without spending exorbitant amounts of money. The holiday carries an important sentiment that allows people to feel valuable, reminding them that they deserve care and respect. Friends and families can celebrate together, reminiscing over good times they’ve shared and expressing hope for the future. Additionally, people can use Valentine’s Day to practice self-care. Love is powerful when given to other people, but it is also necessary to love oneself.
Corporations have increased their focus on profit, contributing to the idea that Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with love, and rather, is an elaborate marketing scheme created by companies to take money out of our pockets. Others still believe that a holiday dedicated to love benefits only those in relationships and excludes single people. I disagree. For me, Valentine’s Day has always been a day to reflect on the love that I experience in my everyday life. All love is important and deserving of celebration, whether it comes from romantic partners, family members, or friends.