It is unavoidable. By the beginning of February, for better or for worse, Valentine’s Day was already making its presence felt. Its dawning is a gradual process that seems to stretch on to a rather disappointing climax. The cobbled streets of St Andrews are speckled with boards propped outside restaurants, promoting candlelit evenings accompanied by special Valentine’s themed menus for a bargain price. Valentine’s Day cards pop up in shops to replace the discarded stale heralds of yuletide cheer. The messages inside vary from the highly romantic and poetic, adorned with flowers and hearts, to the ironic with a range of affectionate and sparse wit.
Then, there is all the merchandise. Valentine’s themed stationary (because nothing shouts undying love more than a fluffy pink biro) appears, specially produced for this one singular day. A bouquet of cheesy romantic comedies are bestowed on us by Netflix. Online stores such as ASOS display helpful wish lists and gift guides, for her, for him, or alternatively, for you #selfcare. And of course, there are all of the themed events such as those happening at The Vic or The Rule.
It is incredibly easy to dismiss Valentine’s Day as having lost all meaning. The argument being that it has become purely a product of a commercialist and consumerist culture. The value of romance replaced with the value of cold, hard cash. The easily obtained juxtaposed against a celebration of what definitely cannot be purchased. A point readily justifiable by the plethora of possible Valentine’s themed purchases currently available. It certainly seems far removed from the tale of St Valentine, who fell in love while in jail and sent the first love letter signed “from your Valentine” before he was executed for secretly performing forbidden marriages. It now appears more like a brand, or just another marketing strategy, hardly the stuff of chivalric legends.
The day itself could even be seen as artificial. A date which was originally chosen by the church to conveniently coincide with old pagan springtime celebrations, such as the Roman festival of Lupercalia. A date fixed for romance, something which is intuitively natural, spontaneous and cannot be forced. And ideally, love should last more than one day.
And yet, whilst the case against Valentine’s day comes readily to hand, it is impossible to disregard it entirely. The reason being that it is unavoidable. The very fact that you can’t forget it entirely is important. Regardless of all the twee sentimentality and commodities, it does cause you to at least consider the relationships (or lack of) in your life. The times when a single person feels most single are definitely around the Christmas season and Valentines Day. If it makes you feel something then it can’t be completely meaningless, even though as a single person it can be hard to see that it means anything for us at all. It appears to be designed specifically for couples, surprisingly enough.
However, even though it may feel like a reversion back to creating incredibly sticky and sparkly Valentine’s Day cards for your parents when you were in nursery/kindergarten, it is worth remembering that there are different kinds of love. Platonic love is as infinitely important and valuable as romantic, and perhaps even more so.
So, take the time on Valentine’s Day to call home or meet up with friends, maybe even throw a Galentine’s Day à la Leslie Knope. Quite frankly, any excuse to break away from the normal weekly schedule and treat a day slightly differently may as well be enjoyed. So regardless of whether your idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day is dancing the night away or staying in with your good friends, Ben and Jerry, I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.