Valentine’s day is a holiday that I’ve always enjoyed despite never having an actual valentine. It’s a day dedicated entirely to love. I can’t remember a year where I haven’t celebrated the holiday in some way, whether that was school-sponsored parties or rushing down the stairs in the morning to see a small little box of chocolates and a pretty card from my parents sitting on the counter. It was these little moments that made the holiday special for me.
Elementary School Valentine’s Day parties are some of the best celebrations of the holiday. It’s not about the romance. It’s not about how many flowers your significant other gives you or how expensive the kay jewelers necklace is. It’s not about fancy clothes and a nice dinner either. Those valentines day parties are all about terribly decorated shoe boxes that the teacher calls a ‘mailbox’, stuffed with cheesy holographic Shrek cards and chalky candies.
Everyone got a card, even if it was enforced by the teacher that if you got a card for one person you had to get a card for the whole class. Those little cards, with messy signatures on the back and dorky valentines puns on the front, made everyone feel appreciated. It didn’t matter who you were, or who you hung out with, or even if you knew the name on the card, someone had put it in your box. Someone had wished you specifically a Happy Valentine’s Day and all you got from it was a paper card and some mediocre candy. It felt special in the moment, no matter how incensire it actually was.
I can remember gathering around a table with my friends and going through each and every one of the cards in my sticker covered shoebox. We’d trade candy for the ones we liked and swapped cards to get the picture we liked better. Handing out Ring Pops made you a hero and the heart shaped lollipops were tolerated at best. We’d read the little sayings on sweetarts as we ate them and stash the rest of the candy for later. Valentine’s day was nothing more than a fun day spent with friends where I could do my best, with the limited funds I had in third grade, to show them I appreciated them.
Of course, as I got older the meaning of the day changed. The parties went away in exchange for cute dates and big gifts. I’d see people in the halls with flowers sold by the school or big fluffy teddy bears. Any movies I watched that even mentioned the holiday made it into an event with romantic expectations and grand gestures. Singles Awareness day and Galentine’s emerged alongside it, both feeling more like a consolation prize for those who couldn’t find dates rather than any real celebrations of love between friends.
Despite its origins in romance, Valentines day has never been solely about romance for me. It’s a day to celebrate all kinds of love, whether that’s platonic, romantic, or even familial. Valentines day parties in Elementary school embodied that perfectly.
So if you like the big gestures and romantic dinners, that’s fine. Everyone has different ways that make them feel loved, but Valentines day isn’t a romantic competition. It shouldn’t be the one day a year that you remember to show people you love them and it shouldn’t be a day where you feel bad about your own lack of romance. Spend time with your friends or family instead, not because you have no one else, but because you want to show them you care.