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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Love-hate relationship? Revitalizing the underlying importance of Valentine’s Day

<y February, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged in the name of St. Valentine. A holiday intended to allow for the expression of love, Valentine’s Day has become the subject of innumerable critiques nowadays, and is perhaps gaining status as one of the most resented holidays. Common accusations claim that Valentine’s Day is consumer-based and tangential to relationships, and charges often revolve around the concept that it is only a celebration for those with significant others. While many couples happily present each other with cards and chocolate or enjoy candlelit dinners, it is not uncommon to hear everyone else mourn the narrow prospects for successful love and companionship and embrace the probability of eternal solitude.

It is easy for the cynical to denounce cards, flowers, even love, and revel in claiming personal independence on a holiday that couples take such delight in celebrating. Perhaps it is an individualistic mindset that dissuades people from celebrating a day meant for expressing love, and instead causes them to focus on the relationships that they don’t have, the gifts they do not receive. Yet it does not need to be this way.

Two years ago, I found myself in Puebla, Mexico for Valentine’s Day. In a foreign country and without boyfriends, a few friends and I decided to do what any red-blooded American girls would do on Valentine’s Day; get some chocolate-peanut butter Hagan Daaz, slip into sweatpants, and enjoy and evening with the spicy Mexican soap operas. However, we failed to anticipate the scene we would encounter when we arrived on our university campus the morning of Valentine’s Day.

The campus was a buzz, with an abundance of chocolate, flowers, balloons, and other small gifts floating amongst students. After classes, crowds of students gathered at the campus center to watch musical performers, buy gifts at a fair, and celebrate with each other in the ambience of festivity. Even as exchange students, we quickly accumulated small piles of souvenirs, not from admirers, but from friends we had made over the last months, and we were quick to join in the festivities and gift giving. That evening our isolating plans were thankfully exchanged for a night on the town, which bustled to the rim with couples, yes, but also with groups of friends and families going out to celebrate the holiday.

What the Mexicans in Puebla have learned is the underlying meaning and greater importance of a simple holiday like Valentine’s Day; it presents the opportunity to celebrate with and give to others.

If Christmas has survived the invasion of consumerism and still represents the value of giving, why has Valentine’s Day been degraded to a useless day deserving of angsty reprobation? Certainly, a 79-cent card and a piece of chocolate cannot demonstrate the full depth of caring, but spending a dollar fifty and giving those close to you a small action in the context of greater feeling.

Valentine’s Day was created for people to express love towards those that they care about; be these boyfriends or girlfriends, husbands or wives, mothers or fathers, friends, siblings, teachers, or neighbors. The individualistic emphasis on a significant other – or lack thereof – neglects the opportunity to show love to countless others.

Rather than focusing on which restaurant we dine at or what we do or do not receive on Valentine’s Day, we should reassess the true objective of the holiday and focus on giving to the important people in our lives. If there is one universal lesson that can easily be agreed upon, it is that we must never take advantage of the people that we love. It is essential that we show those we care about our feelings in the small, everyday actions of life, and Valentine’s Day, sweet and simple, provides just the occasion to do so.

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