It’s that time of year again. Pink and red hearts line doorways of grocery stores and every other tweet is about being “forever alone;” so you know what that means! That’s right, it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Unlike the holidays that fall in the winter time that focus on family and friends, Feb. 14 has morphed into a glorification of only those with significant others. It’s supposed to be the most romantic day for every couple across the nation; everyone’s opportunity to show just how much they love their partner. Which sounds great, if you’re in a relationship.The people in charge of marketing the holiday, however, seem to have forgotten that a hefty portion of Americans are, in fact, single and for these folks, Valentine’s Day has sadly become a vicious reminder of an indifferent universe stricken with perpetual loneliness.
When you’re in a relationship, the prognosis isn’t much better. There are two popular beliefs regarding Valentine’s Day for those in relationships. The holiday either cheapens what love is by putting a price tag on it, or it’s a stress-filled week leading up to the holiday because the gift you got your significant other for Christmas was okay but now you have to think of a whole new gift that really, truly shows just how much you love them. The Los Angeles Times reported last year that the modern american spent an average of $136.57 per lover. This fervor to throw money at a single day all stems from some corporate ghouls bastardizing the holiday about love into this saddening day that sells commercialized depression; it’s become a kitschy symbol that pushes for couples to make their love into a competition against each other and other people. This stress and spending, however, is a significant departure from the origins of the holiday.
The origins of Valentine’s Day are debated, but a popular version suggests that around the fifth century, Emperor Claudius forbade all Roman soldiers to get married because he believed single men made better fighters. Saint Valentine then took it upon himself to officiate underground weddings for the soldiers, ultimately leading to his execution as punishment for betraying the emperor. The idea that a man would betray the law of an emperor to bring love and joy to soldiers is one that any person with a heart can rally behind. If that was a plot to a disney movie, kids would flock to see it with excitement behind their eyes.
The story of Saint Valentine embodies the power of love and what people will do to protect it even when it doesn’t involve them. Saint Valentine wasn’t the one getting married, he most likely didn’t know the soldiers personally, and yet he still officiated their weddings because he was a man that understood that love truly does conquer all. It finds a way to exist in the weirdest places and brings warmth and comfort to every human being alive. Valentine’s Day is the proverbial hype-man for love, it’s there to get the rest of us jazzed about how awesome and beautiful the idea of love is.
Valentine’s Day isn’t a ploy to get the masses to eat chocolate, it’s the day to celebrate all manners of love. The holiday celebration rule-book doesn’t say the day is for romantic love, it doesn’t say heteronormative love, it simply says love. Love manifests itself in millions of different forms—when you catch yourself daydreaming about the happiness you felt when you got your first dog, or even the respect you had for your big brother standing up for you when that kid pushed you in the hallway. Valentine’s Day is the day to appreciate little moments in life where love seeps in and makes everything a little brighter.
Its symbol is a heart, a universal symbol for love and togetherness and even some vulnerability. Because that’s what love is, it’s vulnerable and scary but bitchin’ at the same time. The animosity that Valentine’s Day gets is only in reaction to how much power love has. In other words, with every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction that manifests itself in the form of aversion to what the holiday inherently stands for. That doesn’t mean that love is cheapened, though. That’s a matter of personal commitment to the holiday. Valentine’s Day is what the individual makes of it just like any other holiday—Independence Day is just another hot day in summer if you don’t get with friends and embrace the tattered patriotism everyone has for this beautiful country. Love is a powerful word and it holds a special place in everyone no matter if someone hates the concept or embraces the idea wholeheartedly.
Whatever the connection to love, Valentine’s Day stands for pure love, the love that Saint Valentine was fighting for, it isn’t the grandiose boxes of chocolates that tastes stale right after opening them or even the powdered candy hearts with illegible love notes on them, just pure love. It stands for every cliche encountered in day to day life and every glimmer of hope found on Tinder dates. Love gets a bad rap because of its prevalence but the beauty of love is that it is naturally a diamond in the rough. Whole books are written about love, how to fix love, where to find it, it’s the secret ingredient in homemade cookies and miraculously fixes all knee scrapes. It’s those moments where you get into a big fight with your bestfriend about a simple misunderstanding and you walk away from each other furiously that love truly shines. Even while storming away angry and annoyed, you know the friendship is still intact, it will stand the test of time because something inexplicable, something so basic like gravity, is keeping those seemingly tentative bonds together. That’s what Valentine’s Day stands for, the celebration of emotional gravity.