St. Valentine Didn’t Die For This

Every February 14th, people all around the world prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Every year, roughly 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold. About 50 million roses are sold and given. Approximately 8 billion candy hearts are produced. Men spend an average of $130 on their valentine. About 15% of women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day. And for what?


The short answer is, no one knows for sure. There are three saints named Valentine or Valentinus, and so little is known about them that we often combine their three lives into one. The combined story is this: Saint Valentine would perform weddings for young soldiers who were forbidden to marry. He was imprisoned for this, and wrote a letter to his beloved from jail, signing it “From your Valentine.” He was killed and buried February 14th.

For fun, let’s pretend this is the actual story, following the life of only one person. Valentine performed secret weddings for young lovers because he loved love. Today, we celebrate his love of love by spending time with our loved ones. As a concept, Valentine’s Day sounds sweet. It’s a day to show your partner a little extra attention, a little extra love, and an excuse to spend a little extra quality time together. Cute, right?


Now, Valentine’s Day is used as an excuse to do the most. In heterosexual couples, the burden of planning Valentine’s Day almost always falls on the man in the relationship. As previously stated, men spend an average of $130 on their partner’s Valentine’s Day gift. Too much candy to wrap my head around is sold. Too many roses to visualize are sold. This is all good fun, but the fact that Valentine’s Day has become so capitalized has sucked the fun out of it. It doesn’t feel like it’s about spending some extra time with your partner—and let’s be real, who doesn’t want a day to use as an excuse to spend with your partner?—it’s now about gifts. It’s about planning. It’s stressful. These expectations have taken all the fun out of it.


I’ll say this: I’m in a relationship, and I still hate what Valentine’s Day has become. My ideal Valentine’s Day would be watching a movie with my boyfriend and pigging out on whatever food we were craving that night. This describes most of our Saturday nights. If the baseline expectations for Valentine’s Day were subjective, maybe I could get behind the idea. But it’s so capitalized, so romanticized (pun intended), that now if you’re not making reservations for some super overpriced, definitely-going-to-be-overcrowded restaurant and giving each other heart shaped boxes of chocolate and roses and doing everything possible to set the mood, you’re doing Valentine’s Day wrong. Who wants to go through that? If Saint Valentine could see what we’ve done to his special day, he would be ashamed of us. The point of Valentine’s Day is to celebrate your love for each other, not blow all your money on some superficial night.


Conversely, another problem has arisen with Valentine’s Day. All too often, I’ll hear someone ask a single person, “What are you doing on Valentine’s Day?” with the purest intentions. It’s usually another single person doing the asking. But the answer is something along the lines of, “Crying, probably,” and then everyone is uncomfortable and trying not to feel bad for the person who said that, whether it’s genuine pity or just annoyance that they said that. Valentine’s Day is about love. Don’t you love your friends? Your mom? Your dad? Your sibling(s)? Your pet? Your roommate? Yourself? Yes? Good! Then plan a night where you spend time together. Maybe Saint Valentine is known for celebrating romantic love, but come on, wouldn’t a guy who died for love want everyone, regardless of their relationship status, to feel the love on his day? Again, it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it probably shouldn’t be. One of my friends told me she and another friend will be having a movie night on Valentine’s Day, and maybe getting wine drunk. The point of their evening is to spend time with each other, catch up from time classes don’t give us, and enjoy each other’s presence. Will it be a romantic night? Probably not. Will it be a fun night spent with someone they love? Absolutely.


Love is not and should never be reserved specifically for romantic relationships. There are way too many different types of love in the world—romantic, platonic, familial, self, etc.—for us to only think about romantic love on Valentine’s Day. If the tradition doesn’t work for you, tailor it! In Parks and Recreation, Leslie has an annual Galentine’s Day to spend some extra time with her gal pals and tell them she loves them. In the past couple of years, pal-entines have become popular. Last year, I used watercolors to paint all my friends Valentine’s Day cards, each with a stupid joke I thought they would like. I’m not at all artistic, so they didn’t look great, but they were tailored to our friendship and everyone smiled when they saw theirs.


Valentine’s Day should be a day of love, not a day of stress or sadness. If you’re doing the most with your partner or friend(s), do it because you want to, not because you feel obligated to celebrate on a day that clumps three different men we know nothing about together. If you’re feeling sad on Valentine’s Day, stop it. Find someone you love, literally anyone you love in any way, shape, or form, and hang out with them. Or ignore the day all together! Do whatever makes you happiest.