Valentine’s Day. You typically love it or hate it. Perhaps you are newly in love and ready to profess your affections for another in a day of celebration devoted to the very emotion with which you are brimming. Maybe you fall into the single and dreading category. All those hearts everywhere are reminders of that which eludes you. Or if you are single and fully satisfied, you are constantly irritated by those insisting you must be embittered, sad, and lonely. Furthermore, the happily coupled may find the day riddled with pressure to impress with the perfect gift or proclamation of undying love. It becomes easy then to see how the holiday is primarily celebrated by those in elementary school and in the elementary stages of love.
In my three years of blogging, I have yet to devote an article to this topic because frankly, love can be a touchy subject. However, Valentine’s Day has always ranked as one of my favorite holidays. Perhaps it’s because I naturally gravitate toward all things pink, or my general girly affinity for glitter and hearts. But the truth is, I love the holiday because it is about love, one of the most powerful of human emotions. While the greeting card companies may have inadvertently adulterated the holiday for many, the truth is that a holiday about love is a beautiful thing. And really, perspective and intention make all the difference.
Below are five ideas for taking back this holiday and celebrating it for what’s it’s truly about—simply, love.
1) Be Mine: Find Your Valentine
Possibly one of my favorite parts of Valentine’s Day has involved the acquisition of valentines. No, that doesn’t mean hunting down men with cupid’s bow and arrow, nor does it implicate a couple status. Because really, what is a Valentine by definition anyway? If you can hand out 18 cards as a young child and ask them all to “be mine,” then surely in adulthood this translates to a pretty liberal understanding of the concept. To me, a Valentine can be anyone with true affections for you.
One year a friend delivered a chocolate bar with a poem inscribed in its wrapper to my door. Another year I received an Edward Cullen Twilight edition of the largest box of hearts I’ve seen in my life. There were the times my mom mailed me fun Valentine’s gifts of sweet socks and cozy pajama pants, and the times my dad got me flowers and chocolates. So yes, many years my Valentines were my friends and family. They were the ones who were there through thick and thin. I feel incredibly blessed because I’ve always felt loved. And Valentine’s Day is really about the giving and receiving of love. So whether you are married or single, think outside the box. Don’t limit the holiday to the stereotypical heterosexist coupled idea of love. Your Valentine doesn’t have to be a Fabio, and it can help to remember that.
2) You Rock: It’s Not About the Money
One of the common sources of Valentine’s Day stress is related to finances. Expectations on this day can ride high. Some are expecting a proposal complete with a rock on their finger, while others want the prime reservation at the best restaurant. When the stakes are so high, it can be easy to mess up or feel guilty that an opulent gift was not appropriately reciprocated.
Setting limits before the holiday can be helpful, assuming all parties agree to this. Although cliché to say, sometimes it really is the little things that mean more. Being creative and coming up with a personalized gift (if you choose to even give gifts at all) can be ideal. Perhaps one partner enjoys art and there is a Groupon deal for one of those wine and painting classes. Maybe it is a pass for yoga lessons or gift card for a small spa service. For an even more restricted budget, it might be something as simple but meaningful as cooking dinner together, watching a movie, and exchanging a favorite book with one another. Either way you choose to go, personalizing a token of your affection can go far and it doesn’t have to break the bank.
3) UR Fun: Celebrate the Holiday
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always believed any holiday that is cause for gathering and celebration is well worth observing. We have no qualms with green beverages for St. Patrick’s Day or donning the red, white, and blue for the 4th of July. I’ve never thought it was quite fair that the fun of Valentine’s Day seemed to end in the elementary school days. I recall there was always a party with cakes and candy. We even had the most beautiful Valentine’s tree one year all decorated with heart ornaments in one of my classes. Then with middle school and high school, the fun started to fade. It was less about silly Valentine’s cards and their messages but suddenly about secret admirers and romance.
In grad school, I was re-introduced to the fun and kindness inherent in the holiday. I found great friends who hosted casual cheese and wine type parties complete with festive cupcakes. Although initially a “singles” event, most of the coupled wanted to get in on the festivities in my friends’ joyously decorated apartments. Even better, I met one of my best friends whose birthday falls on this very holiday. This gave her the perfect excuse to throw an annual affair where all were included regardless of coupledom status. Hence, have fun with the holiday. Be kind and inclusive and bask in that Valentine warmth of friends and community.
4) Write Me: Send Those Cheesy Valentines
Yes, I will admit it. I still buy those boxes of children’s Valentines. Even though I’m disappointed in my options some years (last year it was Justin Beiber tattoos or Hello Kitty notepads—I went with the latter for the record), I continue to purchase them. Oddly, that’s one market that the greeting card makers haven’t filled. There is no category of bulk Valentines one can purchase for friends over the age of 10 or so.
Maybe it’s nostalgia, or just that I like reaching out to friends. In an age where so much is done over text message and emails, I enjoy buying and sending cards for friends across the miles. I also still purchase at least one box of chalky hearts because it just doesn’t feel like the holiday without them. Getting lost in some of the childhood memories and reconnecting with the old-fashioned fun of the holiday can help reframe and refresh. And who knows, when it’s back to basics, maybe you will enjoy the holiday more.
5) Hug Me: Give Back
Back when I was in high school, I used to be involved in a community service club. One of my favorite service activities involved making Valentine’s Day cards for the patients at our local children’s hospital. Often we can be so wrapped up in the micro-dramas of our own lives that we quickly forget about those facing adversity. The opportunity to give back and provide comfort to those in need on a holiday devoted to love can be a powerful thing. So if all else fails, bake some cookies and take them into the senior citizen community center. Spending a few hours learning life lessons from those who have lived, loved, and even lost, you may have a newer understanding of what it truly means to love.
So don’t despair this year on the day of St. Valentine. Remember those feelings of excitement you had on this day as a young child ready to give and receive cards, candy, and kind words. Perhaps even read up on the interesting origins of the holiday (for link click here). But above all, celebrate love in all its forms. To all my readers, I wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day and share with you my favorite recipe for the holiday: 1/2 cup chalky hearts, 2 cups laughter, ¼ cup chocolates, 2 cups kindness, 1/3 cup rose petals, and just a dash of pink glitter for good measure.