I’m never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day. I’ve mostly seen it make single people feel bad and make couples feel pressure and spend a lot of money. Indeed, its roots are in martyrdom and suffering.
Quick history: In ~300 A.D. St.Valentine was persecuted and executed for marrying Romans who were forbidden to marry. After 100 years of deep reflection, Romans – Pope Gelasius, to name names – realized that Valentinus was actually in the right and declared February 14th as a celebration of his badass rule breaking. The party spread across Western Europe as a celebration of romantic love, fueled by Chaucer and the pomp and circumstance of courtship that began in the 14th century. Then it hopped across the pond to the United States. We wrapped it in mass commercialism and spat out our current day version of the celebration complete with candied hearts, chocolates, expensive dinners and prescription meds.
No disrespect to St. Valentine. I, like Pope Gelasius, think that he was doing the world a solid by providing rights to unjustly persecuted. But in 2016, I’m looking for some alternative ways of celebrating his noble deeds.
Do it Kiddie-Style: One of my fondest memories of modern day Valentine’s Day is the little cardboard cards we swapped in our elementary school classrooms as a celebration of platonic friendship. Everyone gave a card, everyone got a card, and everyone was happy. Last year, I bought a box of these for nostalgia and handed them out to my friends. Turns out they have the same effect on adults as they do on kids.
Phone a Friend: Take advantage of the day to celebrate your pals (guys or girls) that make your world a happier place. Friendship is consistently under celebrated in our Hallmark world. Send your best friend a handwritten note. Call a pal from across the country who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Throw a galentine’s day party.
Dine Alone: You all know how I like to eat alone at restaurants, cultivated through a few years of intense travel for work and brought back home to NYC. Dining out alone on Valentine’s Day is the ultimate milestone for this particular brand of social defiance. You’ll probably have to sit at the bar because restaurants are packed. Still, observing the acts of love and awkwardness associated with Valentine’s Day is pretty sweet – and you’ll have fun talking to the servers about the proposals, breakups and other pressure-cooker type conversations they observe that day. For places to head in NYC for dining alone, check out NYTimes Food writer Julia Moskin favorite places to pull up a single chair (shared by H&F senior correspondent Aunt Andy).
Expanding our Definition of Love: This past year has been a pretty awesome one for love, from the rise of powerful trans voices like Laverne Cox to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage. St. Valentine would be proud, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Perhaps the best way to support love today is to support the organizations that are working every day to make the joys of love accessible to everyone. A few of my favorites? GLADD, The Center and The Theater Offensive.
What are your alternatives to celebrating Valentine’s Day?