You're Wrong About Valentine's Day
Yeah, I know. We’re all supposed to hate Valentine’s Day. If you’re not in a romantic relationship, you’re supposed to hate Valentine’s Day because you’re so lonely, and you have to watch everyone else be happy and coupled up. If you are in a romantic relationship, you’re supposed to hate Valentine’s Day because corporate America is trying to take ownership of your love and have you spend money on stuff no one really needs in order to pacify your significant other one day a year. We’re supposed to hate all the Celine Dion they play on the radio, and all the pink and red, and even the chalky candy hearts in all their glorious ubiquity.
That attitude towards Valentine’s Day couldn’t be more wrong. Actually, Valentine’s Day is THE BEST holiday out of all the holidays*, and if you don’t agree with me, you’re celebrating it wrong.
I rarely get ranty while blogging, but I’m so tired of this collective disdain for February 14. It’s such a profound waste. I’m constantly shocked at how few people agree with me about this.
Valentine’s Day has a pretty convoluted history, especially considering what it’s come to mean in modernity. No one is 100 percent sure which Saint Valentine the holiday is named for; there are at least three Saint Valentinus-es in the Christian tradition, and there was no Wikipedia when Valentine’s Day got started, so we all just have to guess. My favorite Christian origin story is about a martyr named Valentinus who was killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. That’s my favorite because it says the most to me about what love is all about: recognizing the pain of suffering in others, and doing whatever might be possible to eradicate injustice.
Before the Christians decided they needed a February holiday (because, hello, February is the worst), a similar Pagan tradition was celebrated at the ides of February. Called Lupercalia, the holiday was a festival of fertility and agriculture. It involved sacrificing a goat and slapping women with bloody goat flesh in order to make them fertile. (Reportedly, the women liked it. Who can know for sure, but I think I would maybe like it.)
In the Eighteenth Century, Valentine’s Day started getting romantic and floral in Geoffery Chaucer’s high society circle. People started giving each other bouquets and chocolates and declaring their affections with dumb little cards, and forever more the singles of the world would resent themselves and loathe their coupled compatriots for at least one day out of the year.
I think that was the big misstep.
While I have never sacrificed a goat, my personal Valentine’s Day evolution includes a lot of twists and turns. I’ve gone through all the requisite Women’s Magazine stages of Valentine’s Day: hopelessly wishing someone — anyone — would want me; making secret love cards for Trevor Clancey (with obscure “Star Trek” references on them, because I GOT him); saying “FUCK THIS DAY!” and eating cake and chocolate with “the girls”; having a romantic night out on the town with “my special sweetie”; having a big fight out on the town with “my special sweetie” because nothing could have lived up to expectations; denial; and finally, acceptance. I’ve done it all. I have landed here, outside the pages of Women’s Magazines completely, thinking Valentine’s Day is the best holiday of all, and wondering why there aren’t more people who agree with me.
Here’s the thing: there is no big holiday that’s all about love. There’s a big holiday that’s all about Jesus (actually, there are like four of those). There’s a big holiday that’s all about colonization (embarrassing). There’s a big holiday that’s all about being proud of America (even more embarrassing, especially given the big holiday that’s all about colonization). But there’s no big holiday for love! Love is way more important than any of those other things. It’s bigger and more important and more pervasive than literally anything else on earth! Even Martin Luther King, Jr. agreed with me on this one: he said, “Love is the most durable power in the world.” Who ever said that love had to be cut out of red construction paper and taped to just one person’s locker? Small-minded thinkers, that’s who.
About five years ago, I decided to start a Valentine’s Day tradition. Every year on Valentine’s Day I call ten people I love, but haven’t talked to in a long time, and tell them I love them. With the carving of this new tradition, I decided to reject forever the idea that Valentine’s Day should be about gazing longingly into the eyes of one other human, and I transformed it into a holiday where I celebrate the greatest force in my life; something I too often forget. Now it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Oh, and I still wear red, because red is super-flattering on me.
I would like to spend the rest of this post debunking the ridiculous myths that people inevitably bring up as a means of argument when I tell them Valentine’s Day is the best holiday around.
Nice use of Hallmarkization. And yes. But what HASN’T Corporate America completely destroyed? We make decisions every day to reject globalization (I can do -izations too!), by shopping at farmer’s markets, making our own soap, and having dinner at home. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be any different. I am inviting you to celebrate a holiday that has the potential to be about love; not to spend $150 at Target. Seriously: don’t go to Target. Just hang out with your friends.
I agree with you there. Really, my argument has nothing to do with candy, or with children. Unless you want to call a child and tell the child you love her. I mean, honestly, I kind of think candy is a necessary evil. It’s out there, it’s sweet, it's got littery wrappers all over it, and it’s here to stay for now. So is “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Gotta pick your battles.
OK, that’s fine. I think you might be better off with, “Down with religious persecution! Everyone should be allowed to believe what she believes and no one should have any sort of religion forced down their throats!” But if you think your thing is catchier, you’re welcome to stick with it. It bears repeating that the Saint Valentine in question was not necessarily a Christian. There is speculation that he was a Roman. Still, western religion is problematic, I get it. You have my permission to call it “Love Day,” if you want.
A: We can! But we don’t. People spend a lot of time thinking about everything that is wrong with their lives. Here are some examples of things you (yes, YOU!) might have been thinking yesterday: I am not good enough. I am a failure. I can’t get anything done. Or: I am SO MAD at X. X really screwed me over, because X doesn’t care about anyone but herself. X is a bad person; it’s hard to have faith in humanity with X around. Or: I just want to watch “House of Cards.” When will there be a new season of “House of Cards?!”
My invitation is to let go of all that for a day and feel that feeling that comes when you want someone else to be happy; when you are accepting of others exactly as they are; when you are taking care of yourself enough to have the capacity to be present with other people. Really, the invitation is to simply experience gratitude for other human beings. That’s all. This holiday should be about THAT.
And then, how can you argue that it’s not THE BEST HOLIDAY? You can’t. Game, set, match.
*If you know me well, you know that Groundhog Day is actually my favorite holiday out of all the holidays. But that's a whole other article.