Written for Acculturated
February 14th, 2017
I’m not one for remembering dates. For years, I could never remember if my older sister’s birthday was on March 5th or 7th. To play it safe, I’d just alternate my answer whenever I was asked, knowing I always had a 50/50 shot. Somehow I still managed to pick the wrong one most of the time. I’m a bit better now—her birthday is on the 5th— but I still tend to forget important dates that haven’t been hammered into my memory over the course of nineteen years. So, when I walked into my local CVS on February 1st, it hadn’t even occurred to me that Valentine’s Day was coming up. Until, that is, I saw the row of red and pink that now makes up the candy aisle. Someone else came to the same realization at about the same time, and I heard them say, “Ugh, Valentine’s Day already?”
Sadly, that person is hardly alone in their dislike of the love holiday. Every year, as February 14th rolls around, you’ll start hearing about how much people hate Valentine’s Day. It gets called overly-commercial, a holiday created by the Greeting Card Industrial Complex. Lists about why it’s the worst day of the year are easy to come by on the internet—Buzzfeed has probably already published twenty. The worst offenders, however, are the single people who talk incessantly about how annoying it is to have a holiday dedicated to romance, as though someone out there is conspiring to remind them that they’re alone.
Now, as a single, teenage guy, I might be one of the last people you’d expect to defend Valentine’s Day, but I’m about to do just that. You see, I’ve always rather enjoyed Valentine’s Day. While it’s true that Valentine’s Day is a day for romance, it also has a much deeper meaning than its detractors, and even many of its supporters, understand.
I appreciate the arguments against Valentine’s Day. I realize that it has, along with nearly every other major holiday, been commercialized. Christmas has Santa and presents. Thanksgiving has Black Friday. Memorial Day has simply become a three-day weekend. Easter has the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, and candy—though Cadbury Crème Eggs are a commercialization process I am more than happy to tolerate.
When I think about the Valentine’s Days of my past, I think about the cards and candy I got for all my classmates in elementary school. Or that time I didn’t have a date, so I helped a friend pull a John Cusack from Say Anything so he could ask a girl out—which involved around forty feet of extension cords since his boom box wasn’t battery-powered.
But, despite my childhood memories of commercialization and Valentine’s Days spent without a sweetheart, that’s not what Valentine’s Day means to me. Those aren’t even the first memories that come to mind when I think of the holiday.
Growing up, every February 14th, my four siblings and I would head to the kitchen for breakfast and find a box of chocolates at our seats at the table. To us, the chocolates themselves were always meaningless—but still quickly eaten. It was the act behind the chocolates that actually mattered. The yearly tradition was a reminder of how much our mother and father loved us. Even now, with me in college and my two older siblings living hundreds of miles away, our parents have told us to anticipate a Valentine’s package in the mail.
The thing that Valentine’s Day haters don’t understand is that it isn’t just a day for lovers—it’s a day for love. Not just romantic love, but love of all kinds—platonic and familial too. It’s a day for you to think about how much your family and friends mean to you. This understanding of Valentine’s Day is more in line with what Saint Valentine himself would have wanted. He was, after all, martyred for his love of God and for his fellow man, not his romantic love for another person.
So this Valentine’s Day, don’t just tell your sweetheart that you love him or her. Tell everyone important in your life. If you still insist on taking a cynical view of the holiday, remember this silver lining: there are some major chocolate sales on February 15th.