Valentine’s Day in the west has become a day of romantic celebration of love. However, it has not always been that way. Depending on which accounts of history you read, Valentine’s Day may be related to a pagan ritual for early spring. It is celebrated as friend and families day in some countries, rather than romantic love. And there are several countries that completely bann the celebration of Valentine’s Day because it is seen as “untoward” to be romantic in public.
My parents were engaged on Valentine’s Day, they made a much bigger deal of Valentine’s Day than their wedding anniversary. I can remember as a child of eight or nine, I was shocked when my father gave my mother a box of chocolates and she sat in his lap and kissed him. I had never seen them kiss before.
Outside of my parent’s display of love, I grew up celebrating Valentine’s Day more as a celebration of family and friends. We would gather and exchange Valentine’s cards among sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. For those who could be there, we would share a meal. To this day I send a card (electronic now instead of paper) to my siblings, my mother, and those aunts and uncles who are still alive.
I do fashion a love note to my husband but we don’t do other things traditionally done on this date. Flowers are at least twice the cost than other times of the year. Dinner reservations are impossible unless you plan months in advance—even at regular chain restaurants. And the pressure of being romantic on one particular day of the year is ridiculous. We daily express our love for each other in many ways, and our anniversary is more likely to be the time for over-the-top romantic expression. Though that is not always the case.
I was able to find two countries that have not fallen to the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. They use Feb 14th to celebrate friendship instead of romantic love.
Known as Ystävän Päivä in Finnish and Sõbrapäev in Estonian, Friend’s Day is celebrated by single people and couples alike. Families, friends and couples gather for shared meals and sporting activities like skating or sledding.
In both countries, streets are decorated in love-themed paraphernalia in the weeks leading up to Feb. 14. The day celebrates all forms of love, and so romance is not absent from the holiday. However, romantic love does not take center stage.
Without taking away from the romantics among us, I’d like to suggest that we take back Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate the love of friends and family. Send a note to a friend or to all your friends and let them know how lucky you are to have them in your life. For me, I’ve been spending this week thinking about all forms of love and what each of us can do by using our love to make the world a better place.
Valentine’s Day is all about love, so I’m sending some of mine to you.
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