Column: In defense of Valentine's Day

How anyone could find a way to decry a time of year when chocolate goes on sale is beyond me. Yet, like clockwork, prematurely jaded millennials have once again risen from the nethers of social media to boldly proclaim their hatred for Valentine’s Day.

“30 Rock’s” Liz Lemon sums up the sentiment pretty adequately: “Valentine’s Day is a sham created by card companies to reinforce and exploit gender stereotypes.”

I, too, am often wary of big business and I’m certainly a feminist. I’ll share an unpopular opinion: I don’t buy into the cynicism.

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The criticisms of Valentine’s Day are an example of counterculture-turned-mainstream culture. I see so many posts and articles promoting the imminence of “Single’s Awareness Day,” it’s not even cool anymore.

It seems that people who denote Feb. 14 as a day to celebrate love and affection are now the minority. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I may even have un-ironic (gasp) plans this Sunday.

It’s time to reclaim the holiday. But first, it’s important to dispel some rumors about the date.

The first thing I hear all too often is that Valentine’s Day was invented by corporate America to exploit our insecurities and our wallets. As ingenious as that scam would be, it simply isn’t true.

Valentine’s Day has existed since at least the 15th century; many place the origin of the holiday even earlier. The original story goes that Emperor Claudius II did not allow Roman men to marry during wartime. St. Valentine, then a bishop, countered these orders by performing secret weddings and allowing love to prevail—actions for which he was later jailed and executed. From prison, he is rumored to have sent love letters signed “from your Valentine.”

It’s true that companies like Hallmark now make huge profits from Valentine’s cards, but they are simply responding to a demand, not creating it.

According to Joseph Walker McSpadden’s “The Book of Holidays,” over one million Valentine’s cards and letters were sent through the London post office as early as 1832—long before the advent of Hallmark.

Before it became a moneymaking enterprise, Valentine’s Day had plenty of historical and cultural significance. This, however, ties into the next most common criticism: Why do we live in a culture that favors showing love just once a year? Shouldn’t we be doing that every day?

Of course we should, but does anyone really? If you pour your heart out and shower your partner with admiration on the daily, props to you. But for the rest of us without the time, energy or resources to do so, Valentine’s suffices perfectly.

Celebrating Mother’s and Father’s Day just once a year doesn’t mean you don’t love your parents for the next 364 days. There’s nothing wrong with denoting a specific holiday for celebration.

That brings us to the last lamentation: “But I’m single and Valentine’s Day makes me sad.”

I get it. It sucks to feel lonely on a day when other people are celebrating. But if seeing your friends in happy relationships is your biggest problem, you have a pretty damn good life.

So here’s a tip: Wipe off your tears in the soft fur of the teddy bear you could easily buy yourself. Remember the days when you sent a Valentine to everyone you knew—friends, classmates, teachers. What’s stopping you from doing that now?

Valentine’s Day isn’t reserved for gushy romance. Save the date and do something kind for someone else. Remind your mom that you love her or tell your best friends how much you appreciate them.

Or, go ahead and enjoy your bitter self. Meanwhile, the rest of us will enjoy some bitter dark chocolate.


Follow Hailey Dickson on Twitter.



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