AP Images, Andy Wong
Love is the glue binding the world together. It’s in the smile shared between strangers when a door is held open, it’s nestled within the gentle words of a parent, it resounds with every thump of a dog’s tail when it sees it’s favorite person, and it’s felt in the warmth brought by a friend’s bright ring of laughter.
With everyday stress from academic work, jobs, and worry for the future jockeying for space in your brain, it’s easy to take this emotion for granted. Gestures of kindness and expressions of love are pushed to the back-burner as the responsibilities and requirements of life take hold. This is why it is more important than ever to dedicate time to reflect on what really matters- on those ties that bind us to other people.
Valentine’s Day is a celebration of this love, that between friends, lovers, and family. Traditionally, it’s rooted in romantic love in particular, but in modern days it has come to represent all relationships. It’s a time that forces everyone to acknowledge those who are important in their lives because it can be so easy to forget how lucky each one of us is to love and be loved in return.
Despite growing vocalization against the holiday, I believe it plays an important part in encouraging self reflection. You should appreciate your family and friends every day of the year, but having a day specifically meant to honor relationships gives those overwhelmed by everything else in their life designated contemplation time. Sometimes people need a reminder of what’s important, and Valentine’s Day serves to make one think specifically about that.
The holiday also allows a certain level of personalization that lends it attainability to a wide audience. Christmas and Thanksgiving come with preset traditions – often stressful family gatherings and expensive gift giving. Valentine’s Day, however, offers an opportunity to tailor make your own traditions with the people important to you. It can be celebrated at home while watching a favorite TV show or with a trip to the mall. This flexibility lends a certain spontaneity and customization that many other established holidays lack.
Although the origins of the holiday are not often part of current celebrations, the legends surrounding it are something worthy of remembrance. Saint Valentine, the Catholic priest the holiday was named after, is a figure who has come to represent the strength and power of love.
According to History.com, legend says that Saint Valentine officiated weddings in secret for Roman soldiers who had been forbidden from marriage. Then, after he was jailed for the crime of carrying out those services, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer. In an act worthy of placement among the greatest love stories, he brought back her sight and left her a romantic letter signed “From your Valentine,” before going to his execution on Feb.14.
Whether it’s rooted in fact or not, the grand story of Saint Valentine and his tragic romance of Shakespearean proportions bears themes of love worthy of embodiment and holds entertainment for anyone wondering the history of Valentine’s day.
Critics of Valentine’s Day sometimes cite it as a capitalist holiday. I concede to this claim, however, with a certain stipulation. This only remains true if you let it be so. There’s no Valentine’s cupid forcing you to purchase holiday cards or add boxes of chocolate to your shopping list. The holiday is only a material one if you make it that way. There are a million ways to celebrate that don’t involve money at all – spending time with a friend is free and so is telling someone you love them.
So, stop the hatred against Valentine’s Day. It offers a rare opportunity for emotional honesty in an environment encouraging the expression of love and is rooted in a moving tale of courage and sacrifice. Even if you’re single on the day celebrating relationships, that’s no reason to curse the holiday. There is more to life than romantic connections, and this holiday has come to represent that fact. Celebrate with friends, family, or a significant other if you have one – the day of love is for everyone.