Plenty of things changed between 1960 and 2005—the 45 year stretch saw the end of paradigm-shifting conflicts like the Vietnam and Cold Wars, ushered in the Age of Internet, and unleashed Pop-Tarts on the world. But one thing has remained the same: in 1960 and 2005, Americans chose February as their least favourite month.
It might stem from the fact that it’s the shortest month of the year, or that it’s in the dead of winter, post-Christmas and New Year’s jubilation. But if the month has a redeeming quality, it’s one defined by care, tenderness, and community: Valentine’s Day.
The celebration, which is observed on February 14th each year, traces its earliest romantic roots to the 14th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the Valentine’s Day machine kicked into full gear with mass-produced cards replacing handmade tokens. A couple hundred years worth of chocolates, restaurant reservations, and rose bundles later, and Valentine’s Day has become a social and cultural institution in North America and the world over.
Traditionally, the holiday is marked for the expression of romantic love—a day where lovers spoil and shower each other with gifts and affection. Such as it is, the holiday can leave single folks feeling left out, even bitter.
But this needn’t be the case. Though the day centres love within a couple, it can be turned into an opportunity to show care for anyone in our lives. If we reposition the restrictive marketing around the holiday, we can make it a day to celebrate parents, siblings, friends, and—don’t roll your eyes—even ourselves.
Here are some tips for different ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day, and shake off the mid-winter doldrums.
For The Romantic…
In its most popular iteration, V-Day is for lovers. There are the classic accoutrements: flowers, fancy dinners out, flashy jewellery. While these are fine—some will prefer this classic fare!—they can also be a little vanilla; chances are your partner has experienced this kind of thing before. Valentine’s Day, in the old days, required more effort: meals were cooked instead of purchased, gifts were crafted rather than bought. There’s something to be said for the expenditure of effort in Valentine’s planning, because it reflects a certain kind of care and commitment.
-Try preparing an extravagant home-cooked meal. Even if it goes awry, it’ll be a good memory, and a fun spark—but keep a backup plan on hand if you’re no culinary whiz.
-Get some glue and glitter and construction paper and make a card. Hallmark cards with a non-descript message are nice enough, but handmade ones are better. It might be rough around the edges, but so is life, and there’s nothing more endearing than seeing someone try their hand at something new in the name of love.
-Talk with your partner as if it was a first date. If you’ve been dating a while, chances are there will be a lot to say that gets lost in the daily hustle and bustle of life. This can be a fun exercise if approached with an open mind, and it can bring you closer to your partner, too.
For The Platonic…
We tend to think Valentine’s Day activities like gift-giving and displays of affection can only be shared between lovers, but that’s false. Transforming it into a day to celebrate friendships is powerful and fun—Leslie Knope did it on Parks and Recreation with Galentine’s Day, an occasion to salute the women in her life. If a fictional TV character can do it, you can too.
-Go out to dinner. This doesn’t have to be fancy by any means, so agree on a comfortable, undemanding venue that feels homey for both of you. Cover each other’s bills—a symbolic gesture of, ‘I’ve got your back.’
-Pretend you’re back in high school. Order some pizza, get a pile of junk food and drinks, and watch movies and play video games. As we get older, it’s rare to spend time doing these things with friends—but these moments are precious and unpressured. Stay up extra late.
Maybe you’d rather keep Valentine’s Day a personal endeavour. That’s cool, and kudos to you for putting yourself first. Self-care is important!
-This is a general purpose section, so do whatever it is you’d most enjoy. For some folks, a spa day is rejuvenating. For others, binge-watching a Netflix series is the pinnacle of self-love. For others, it’s getting outside and exploring. Take the day to prioritize yourself at each turn, free from the pressures of society.