Valentine’s Day is a day that a lot of people love to hate. It is often seen as the quintessential “Hallmark Holiday”, a day simply created so business can make money off people’s affections for each other. And then there are the arguments that “they know I love them, I shouldn’t have to prove it just because the calendar says so” or “I do nice stuff and get them gifts all the time, I shouldn’t have to do it Valentine’s Day as well”. While these arguments are understandable, I believe they miss the point. In Mother’s Day and Father’s Day we set aside days each year to celebrate our parents, as well we should, so why not set aside a day each year to celebrate love? We can honour our parents any time we like, and yet we choose to set aside a day each year especially for them, so in the same way I believe there is value in setting aside a day to celebrate our significant other and the love that is shared.
So what leads to this resentment towards Valentine’s Day? I believe part of it comes down to the perceived pressure to do something huge and spectacular. I remember in the period leading up to me proposing to Emily there were a number of stories and videos doing the rounds of guys roping all their friends and doing these big musical numbers to propose. Emily loved them, and yet there was no way I could ever live up to that. For starters I can’t sing to save myself, let alone sing, dance and choreograph a whole performance. My proposal was a lot simpler and lower key, and yet when I asked Emily what her favourite gift was that I’d ever given her, and why, she said it was the engagement. And it wasn’t because she got a sparkly ring out of it (as much as she loves the ring), it was because the way I proposed had meaning. My proposal consisted of 6 layers of wrapping, each of which had a note about why I loved her, the final note saying “I want to spend the rest of my life with you”. Not expensive, not complicated, but meaningful because those words of affirmation were important for Emily. This is the key to gift giving: the true value of a gift isn’t in its financial cost, but in its personal meaning.
So how can we apply this to Valentine’s Day? Or any other gift giving opportunity? We need to look at what is meaningful for the person receiving the gift. Are they a person who values time together? Then maybe the best gift would be going for a drive to somewhere scenic, or having a picnic together where there are no distractions. Or maybe they are someone who values being encouraged and told what you appreciate about them? Then maybe you get a bunch of small cards, write something nice about the other person on each card and the put the cards in a box or a bag labelled “Reasons I love you” or “Reasons I appreciate you”. Or maybe they are someone who appreciates seeing love in action, so you could go and mow their lawns, clean their house, or build something for them. None of these ideas need to be complicated or expensive. They may take a bit of preparation and forethought, and a bit of time, but they are an investment in the relationship.
Valentine’s Day can be seen as the commercialisation of love and relationships, and is often rejected because of that. However I believe that any opportunity to build up someone you are in a relationship with and to show them how much you love them should be taken. So maybe it’s not about rejecting Valentine’s Day, but reclaiming it. Romance in today’s society is perceived as expensive dinners and gifts, whereas the most romantic things are more likely to be the things that have meaning. It’s time to move away from the commercialisation of romance and reclaim real romance, expressions of love that have depth and value not because of their financial cost, but because of the heart that is behind them.