Every year it's the same. You're still waking up to find glitter and confetti from New Year's Eve in odd places and casting shady and shameful glances at the Christmas tree you should have taken down weeks ago. You've made it through January with maybe one or two resolutions still intact, and things are looking optimistic. And yet all around you a ferocious and passionate battle is being fought.
I'm not talking about the various wars and revolutions that are desperately deserving our attention. I'm talking about the battle of the People vs Valentine's Day, that poor, pink, winged thing just trying to make it through its 24-hours of yearly freedom through a cascade of bullets.
I find it very ironic that the holiday meant to celebrate love is the most despised of our yearly traditions.
The main barb thrown at Valentine's Day is labeling it "Singles Awareness Day". This insinuates that instead of sharing this day with a loved one, observers of this holiday will wallow in their own self pity because they don't have a mate to have an expensive dinner with. Western culture tends to determine our self worth by our relationship status, but that doesn't mean you have to. This attitude is not only self-deprecating and extremely limited- it's also ungrateful, selfish, and infantile.
The mistaken belief that love and romantic love are the same sentiment fuels this misconception. Love for family members and friends is over-looked time and time again, and yet these are the people in our lives most deserving of recognition. They are the loves of our lives that will be sticking by us during the messy breakups and forcing us to carry on with the more important stuff. These are the people you slight by eating an entire box of heart shaped chocolates, collapsing into a sobbing heap and exclaiming that no one loves you.
"But they should be appreciated every day, not just one day out of the whole year," the critics say. Yes, they should. But you know what? They're not. We just won't do it. Our mothers and fathers should be showered with love constantly for all they've done instead of just given a brunch and a bouquet/tie one day in the spring. We should take time to appreciate the blessings we overlook every day instead of just the third Thursday in November, for thirty seconds before we stuff our faces and watch football. We should give to charity on a regular basis (and I don't mean annually), but we usually save it all up for one big give in December. The rest of the year we just can't be bothered.
By not celebrating this holiday, does February 14th become the one day a year when you refuse to do something nice for someone you care about?
And by "something nice" I'm not talking about a gift you can't afford or a dinner in a restaurant you don't really like. These are the gifts we've been told to give, not the gifts we're supposed to give. Grand gestures are sold for a hefty fee, but the most inexpensive and precious gift you can give someone you care about is attention. Bigger does not equal a better (or healthier) relationship.
Have we all forgotten that holidays are supposed to be fun? They're not obligations- they're vacations! And this one falls at a crucial time of the year. We're half way through winter, but we're still a long ways off from sunshine yet. We need something to help us escape the gloom and make us feel warm and fuzzy. We need an excuse to bake pink cookies with our little brother or sister. We need a reason to spread out the craft box on the kitchen table on a rainy Sunday and put glitter on stuff.
We let Hallmark get a hold of the holiday and tell us how to celebrate it. We over-commercialized it and materialized it, just like we did Christmas. We twisted and contorted and over-sexed it until it got under and skin and became something we hate.
But the world needs love. Just like the world needs parents, gratefulness, charity, and generosity. And we need a day that celebrates and reminds us of that.