A New Kind of Valentine’s Day: How to Reclaim the Holiday

Published: Feb 13, 2023  |  

Bestselling comic book and television writer

Illustration by Nikki Muller

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? If your answer is: “it’s a fake greeting card consumerist holiday with overpacked prix fixe menus,” you are in the majority.

According to a YouGov poll, 57% of Americans say they celebrate Valentine’s Day because of commercial pressure—only 28% consider it a “real holiday.”

I get it: prices skyrocket, and expectations get overwhelming to the point of breaking: statistically, the Tuesday before Valentine’s has more breakups than any other day of the year—so much so that it’s been dubbed “Red Tuesday.”Isn’t that wild? 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The amazing thing about holidays is that none of them are “real.” The faiths, beliefs, and family traditions are real, but the days themselves are special because we decide they are, personally and societally. So why not make Valentine’s something fun? Let’s take charge and enjoy a cheesy celebration of all kinds of love, not just the “sexy long-stemmed rose” kind. And before you tell me it’s impossible to revamp a holiday—especially a ”bullshit” one—let’s take a look at where Valentine’s Day first originated.

The actual traditional origins of the day come from Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival where goats were sacrificed, and nude priests ran through the streets whipping women with bloody animal hides. (I’m going to guess your own V-day plans are pretty tame by comparison.) When eliminating the pagan Lupercalia, Pope Gelasius I declared that, instead, February 14 would now be a day to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. Fast forward some centuries and a lot of Hallmark cards, and here we are.

Ultimately, we know Valentine’s Day can change because we’ve already changed it pretty significantly over the years.

So, what does Valentine’s Day look like as a real holiday? Well, I’d suggest it’s probably one that everyone can celebrate, regardless of relationship status. I’m planning my child’s classroom Valentine’s Day party, and at first, I felt a little bit weird about it. Despite fond memories of passing out Valentines as a kid, it seemed off to be celebrating romance in an elementary school classroom. Then I realized—the problem wasn’t the holiday, it was me—or maybe society. Love is so much more than sexy, romantic love. It’s fantastic that our kids are learning to celebrate their love of each other as friends in elementary school. Why do we stop doing that after puberty? We should and do love our friends, but we aren’t encouraged to say that enough.

There are all kinds of love in this world, so this Valentine’s, let’s lean into that. We’ve been dealing with a pandemic for three years: we’ve missed people, lost people, and hopefully, we’ve learned to appreciate people. We are starving for human connection. Let’s use this Valentine’s day/week/month as an excuse to connect.

Of course, you can still absolutely do fun, chocolate-dipped things with your romantic partner if you have one, but even then, you can also make a commitment to celebrate love in its many other forms:

Familial Love 

Let’s celebrate the love we have for our families. The ones we love who are related by upbringing and the ones who are our families of choice and heart. Tell the people you hold in your heart as “family” how much you care about them in the most over-the-top way you can comfortably manage. If you can make both of you blush with the sentiment, you’ve done it. Give ‘em a great meal or a handwritten love note. The sky’s the limit… literally: consider skywriting “THANKS FOR BEING THE BEST AUNT.” Or for a more economical, slightly less grand gesture, just set aside time for a really connecting phone call with an older relative.

Celebrate Friendship

Beyond your family, make sure to tell your friends you love them. Do something special that shows you really know and appreciate them. This doesn’t have to be expensive—it can be sending a meme you know will make them laugh, bringing them coffee just the way they like it, or a surprise candy treat. Our friends get us through life and are often in our lives longer than romantic partners. They deserve to be cherished.

Practice Self-Love

Most importantly, love yourself. I don’t mean in that way (but also: yes, do that), but in addition to managing your “alone time,” take yourself on a romantic date. Go all out and plan an entire event for yourself that you would do for a treasured lover. It can be pricey, like a spa day or a shopping spree, or intimate and romantic, like a walk to your favorite spot with a “surprise” picnic. Give yourself the exact Valentine of your dreams. You are so lucky to get to spend the rest of your life with you. Act like it.

Share the Love

If you really want to go all out, I have an extra challenge: commit to treating everyone in your life as your Valentine for the rest of this month. I don’t mean buying chocolates for the world, but rather stop and mindfully notice something you love about each person you interact with—even strangers. How does this affect your interactions and how you feel about the world? 

If you do anything wonderful for yourself or anyone else in your life, or try this challenge, I’d love for you to share them with me @amandadeibert and @NewThinking. I’ll be doing it with you, too, because I wouldn’t want MY Valentines to feel alone. <3

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