In Defense of the Holiday, or: How I learned to stop worrying, crate my own story, and love Valentine’s Day

Let’s get one thing out of the way:

I’m single.

As in very single.

Disconcertingly single.

Depressingly and uncomfortably single.

This is the sort of single that, if I were to actually take the time and effort to properly illuminate to you just how single I am, it would likely have major repercussions on your life going forward from this point on. Because you’d begin to doubt what you’d previously taken for granted.

All of it.

Really.

Life. The universe. Everything. Our very existence. Whether or not there’s intelligent life hiding somewhere within the heavens, trying to reach out to us. Or if there’s actually a benevolent being watching over us, guiding us, loving for us and caring for us. Or simply even if there really are plenty of other literal, living, actual fish in the sea (let alone the figurative type).

And you’d likely end up in a comatose state from these doubts, lying dormant somewhere on a lint ridden couch, using the darkness of your dwelling as a blanket from the outside world, and watching episode after episode of Frasieron Netflix.

So, yes.

Let’s all just agree that I am in fact single, and move on from there.

Now as a single person, I know it’s supposed to be my duty to hate Valentine’s Day. To despise it. To rebel against it. To rage against its heart shaped chocolate boxes and its cuddly teddy bears and all of that weird green and red organic matter that grows from the dirt and then gets cut alive to be distributed at a later date.

After all, we all know the familiar battle cry:

That Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday.

That it’s a fake holiday.

That it’s no more than some recent, evil capitalist experiment that was deliberately designed in some hetero-normative laboratory out in Kansas City, Missouri to bring out our greatest insecurities. To simultaneously compel those in relationships to fret endlessly about finding the perfect gift for their significant other, and to make the other half of the population reexamine how they could have possibly screwed up so badly in their lives so as to end up single on Valentine’s Day.

But here’s the thing.

Valentine’s Day? It’s really not so bad. Honest.

Let’s get back to the heart of that infamous claim: that Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, and as such it’s a fake holiday.

Now, this isn’t necessarily untrue.

It’s just that every other holiday is also kind of a “fake” holiday.

Take, for example, Christmas.

Every 25th of December, a large portion of the world’s population gets together to celebrate the birth of Jesus “The 1–2–3- Kid” Christ. Which is all well and good, except for the fact that there seems to be a general consensus among scholars that Jesus wasn’t actually born on that date. In fact, nobody really knows when He was born. The only reason December 25th was actually picked was because the Romans were trying to Christianize a pagan festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.

And we won’t even touch on the later additions of other “fake” aspects of the holiday here – things like gift giving, Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, workshops, wrapping paper, holly, mistletoe, marathons of movies about kids and their beloved guns, and so on and so forth.

So in a way, Christmas could be considered a “fake” holiday as well.

And it isn’t the only example of one, either.

Look at St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday where people get shitface drunk to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, the proud native son who chased the snakes out of the country and brought in Christianity, the color green, and (presumably) delightful little leprechauns to take their place.

Of course, never mind the facts that St. Patrick was from Britain, there were likely never many (if any) snakes in Ireland to begin with, that he was originally assigned the color blue, and that the whole drinking part was largely invented by the Americans who will boldly and proudly commandeer any holiday and use it as an excuse to dress up in funny (and most likely culturally insensitive clothing) and drink copious amounts of alcohol.

You could pick any holiday for this thought experiment. New Year’s. Easter. The Fourth of July. Presidents’ Day. Thanksgiving. Labor day. Arbor Day. Any jilted individual with too much time on their hands can go on to Wikipedia and find a number of reasons why any of these holidays are “fake.”

And, to some extent, they’d be right.

Of course, none of this is supposed to take away from the grandiosity of these holidays, or from their importance or their significance. They’re still very meaningful to a lot of people. So the simple fact that there may be some “fakeness” to them shouldn’t be taken as a negative.

Not at all.

Rather, we should be cognizant that most, if not all, holidays have some sort of inherent “fakeness.” Because holidays are largely social constructs. They have no meaning but for the importance we assign them. Otherwise they would simply be arbitrary dates in an arbitrary calendar.

We create their importance.

We create their meaning.

Which means we have power over them.

Which brings us to Valentine’s Day.

The pressures and stresses of Valentine’s Day are ultimately artificial in nature. Sure, there’s no doubt that advertising and commercialism and corporatism create and exasperate these pressures. And for certain and important segments of the population, the holiday’s generalized hetero-normative narrative can be overwhelming and uninviting.

But the holiday is ultimately beholden to us.

So if you don’t like one of the messages behind Valentine’s Day — whether it be the emphasis on being in a relationship, or on things going perfectly, or on finding that special someone to share your life with, or even the expected types and demonstrations of sexuality — you can do something about it.

You can change the message.

You can change what Valentine’s Day is all about.

Find other ways to show love. Give some time to a charity. Make a donation. Make your political voice heard. Advocate for a good cause. Read up on an unfamiliar culture. Create understanding. Clean up a mess that somebody else had left. Write a story for someone else to enjoy. Hold a door open. Share a smile with a stranger. Take time for yourself. Read a book. Watch Frasier. Call up your parents. Your sibling. Your friend. Let them know how much you care about them. Don’t be a jerk for a day.

Put simply, you do not need to be boxed in (chocolate-y or otherwise) into Valentine’s Day.

You can find your own way to express love.

Create your own story, and make Valentine’s Day your own.

And, at the very least, just remember this:

There is always the promise of discounted leftover candy tomorrow.

Note: I first published this article over at Medium.com. You can go and check it out there, too.
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