In defence of Valentine’s Day – love really is all around

Valentine’s Day is going to be quite busy for me. Today, I will be at work for a few hours, before running some errands. Then, I will be going to watch the BAFTAs. After, I might plan the week ahead. Quite a busy Sunday. Not a bad Valentine’s Day. For something that promotes love more than anything else, this holiday gets a lot of hate. Those amongst us in a relationship feel pressured into living up to expectations built up by peers, whilst people spending the day “alone” may express somewhat more hostile ideas (see: Bridget Jones).

Of course, there are people around the world who do enjoy Valentine’s Day, having prepared and planned a commendable amount – but a lot more grumble about its commercial motivations than they would for a birthday. But let’s take a second to think about that – how is it that a day encouraging romance and kindness towards close ones is perceived as a scam, more so than when the poster boy rabbit frolics around with Cadburys goodie bags come spring time?

I do not have a date, a partner or lover to share this Valentine’s Day with – but I shall still enjoy the day and always look forward to it. I enjoy walking to work and seeing a woman blushing whilst hiding a smile because she feels particularly loved today. I like nodding to the man busking by Tesco’s as his eyes twinkle, thinking about his later plans.

Valentine’s Day smooths over the roughest edges and just gives that boost to make someone’s smile a bit wider. Love comes in all forms – “you look nice today” has proven to do so much more than a heart-shaped box of chocolates ever did. If a birthday celebrates the communal love of one individual, Valentine’s Day celebrates love that is shared for everyone. I feel more free, and happier, to make people feel loved on Valentine’s Day as the holiday points no fingers at a lucky human who is the valentine. Everyone can be a valentine. Where are rules that say that you can only tell someone you love them if you are romantically tied to them?

Of course, like with all holidays, society rubs its hands and tells us what we should or should not do and more importantly what we should or should not have for Valentine’s Day. So, the world becomes intimidated. Finding it somewhat tricky to brush off Christmas in fear that it could forever scar priceless family memories, we pick on Valentine’s Day as the commercial holiday that is nothing more than a societal construct, forcing more money out of our wallets for things we don’t need. And sure, cynics expressing these views are right. We don’t need flowers, hampers, excessive flourishes of pinks and reds in every shop window (although I for one am not complaining about the aesthetic of these embellishes). But the excess enforced by marketing directors and hungry corporations doesn’t cancel out the essence of the holiday. Valentine’s Day ticks different boxes for different people.

The romantic Grinch comes out and shines, saving the holiday and his relationship by pulling out all the stops. The shy “will they won’t they” pair finally seal the deal. And the lifelong couple enjoys the comfort of the holiday which, regardless of everything else, is always theirs year after year. Past these somewhat conventional displays of affection, movements such as “Galentines” have surfaced where girl friends provide all the seasonal love that each other could hope for, as well as a surge of self-love that holds hands with mindfulness in an attempt to spread if not romantic love, at least a bit more well-being for everybody.

And this is the direction in which we should be heading. Dismiss the construct, not the holiday. Buy someone chocolates, treat yourself to flowers – or tell a stranger they look pretty. It’s Valentine’s Day. There is nothing vicious behind a celebration of love. With romance, through family, from friendship or by whatever other forms you choose to feel it, as Hugh Grant most adequately read one day: Love actually is all around. And there are as many ways to convey Valentine’s wishes as there are to experience Valentine’s love. Love today, and it will love you back.

Originally published on Into the Fold

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