Changing the meaning of Valentine’s Day

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Sure, I’ll take the chocolates in the heart-shaped box, maybe even a card, but other than that, the holiday has never mattered much to me. I’ve celebrated it in various ways (dinner out, dinner in, exchange of gifts, heart-to-heart proclamations of love, an abundance of donuts) with boyfriends, with a guy I was kind-of-dating, and with my current paramour, but my heart was never really in it. As many others would surely agree, I’ve never felt the exchange of love tokens and amorous confessions should be confined to one day in February.

Yes, perhaps I am just one more cynic who believes the holiday is a commercially-driven attempt by big corporations to get chumps like you and me to spend more money than is advisable, all to prove to our partners that we love them. About 150 million V-day cards are given each year – the second card-exchanging holiday after Christmas. 150 MILLION.

The origins of the holiday are a bit obscure, but they are rooted in less romantic realities including an annual ancient Roman festival complete with animal sacrifice and a matchmaking lottery (where men and women were, ahem… *paired* together at random for the duration of said festival), and the executions of two men, both named Valentine, in the third century.

I don’t see Hallmark making a card about those things. Happy Valentine’s Day, O Lady Whose Name I Taketh Out of a Jar… Let’s kick it old school, get drunk on hardy Roman wine, and watch some beheadings tonight.

No, thank you.

I’ve decided to start my own tradition of making Valentine’s Day a day to celebrate love and happiness in general. Today, instead of reciting the well-worn sonnets of the poets, instead of gushing about my relationship on Facebook, and instead of pining for a bouquet of red roses (it’s always been wildflowers for this gal), I’m making a list of all the things I am grateful for on this “day of love.”

Among many other things, today I am grateful for the following:

  1. Libraries
  2. The Stephen King novel I just began reading yesterday and already can’t put down
  3. Leftover pizza
  4. The reprieve winter has given us so far, and the fact that spring is only a couple months away
  5. Wool socks
  6. Memories of visits to used bookshops, and plans to see new ones
  7. Books, of course
  8. The sound of my niece’s laughter as we read together
  9. My family, friends, and loved ones who inspire, encourage, and support me
  10. Sweatpants

Whether you are single, in a relationship, or married, you probably acknowledge V-day in one way or another. With swearing and boxed wine (not nearly as robust as that served at those Roman festivals, but it does the trick), with a fancy meal and expensive gifts, or with a hastily purchased card from the Family Dollar you hand your partner over boiled dinner. Somehow or other, the day exists for you, whether you want it to or not. Even I, cynic that I am, will enthusiastically indulge in the chocolates my fella gave to me today. (And feel guilty that I didn’t get him anything in return.)

But let’s all agree on one thing: A card given to your beloved on a random day in June is just as meaningful, if not more, than one given on a day in February when it’s expected of you. A box of chocolates is just as appreciated in the leaf-peeping season. Let’s celebrate love, in all its forms, every day of the year.



Photo credit: Cliff Johnson via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

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Shannon Bowring

About Shannon Bowring

I am 26 years old. I was raised up in the County, in the tiny town of Ashland. I attended the University of Maine in Orono and graduated in 2012 with a BA in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Reading and writing have always been the greatest loves of my life. I am most at home in the dusty corners of used bookstores, surrounded by forgotten books. One day, inspiration struck when I decided I wanted to combine all my loves – writing, reading, traveling, exploring these beloved shops – to create an outlet in which I can share my bookish adventures with an audience of like-minded readers who could appreciate my love of words and stories.