Not a fan? That's fine, but here's how not to ruin it for everyone else.
I’ve been a big fan of Valentine’s Day for as long as I can remember.
It all began with the cards from ‘anonymous admirers’ that started coming through the letter box since I was old enough to know what the day even was, cards that my parents still deny down to the ground they ever sent.
As a child, I loved seeing my dad giving a card and box of Heroes to my mam each year, a tradition he’s religiously stuck to ever since she broke up with him one Valentine’s Day when he arrived home with nothing.
I loved celebrating the holiday in Eddie Rockets with my first boyfriend, I love watching men in suits carry bouquets of flowers onto the packed Luas at rush hour and, to many cynic’s surprise, I love the soppy Instagram posts that flood my feed on February 14th each year.
I’m very aware that a lot of Irish people don’t share my love for the occasion that many dub as a ‘Hallmark holiday’. In fact, a recent study from iReach insights showed that 73 percent of Irish adults aren’t a big fan of Valentine’s Day. 28 percent of those people said they don’t like it simply because they don’t consider it to be a celebration.
We can suspect that a large portion of people who are anti-Valentine’s Day are those that are single and feel there might not necessarily be a reason for them to celebrate a holiday targeted at couples. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, says Life Coach and Co-Founder of The Better Life Project Sarah Doyle. You can use this Valentine’s Day, even if you do consider it to be a fake celebration, as an excuse to spoil yourself or your friends, send a card to your nanny or dress your dog up as cupid.
“If Valentine’s Day broadly represents love, then why not demonstrate love towards yourself?” Sarah asks. “Why not take steps towards showing yourself appreciation and respect, which is ultimately what we’re doing when sharing the day with our partner.
“You can absolutely celebrate any sort of holiday even if you don’t meet the stereotypical requirements of what this represents. You can get behind the spirit of Valentine’s Day without necessarily rigidly sticking to the perimeters of what Hallmark says it should be about.”
One of the things that really doesn’t sit well with me about Valentine’s Day are the people who begrudge others for deciding they do want to celebrate it – they do want to splash the cash on a fancy dinner and singing teddy bear, and they do feel like writing a soppy Instagram caption about how their significant other really is the bee’s knees. I often wonder, what’s the harm in allowing people to frolic in the joy of their romance, just for one day? Sarah explains that the main reason people begrudge others who choose to celebrate the romantic day ultimately comes down to the big J – jealousy.
“I think any date set by Hallmark that recognises a milestone or celebration that someone doesn’t have or they want is automatically going to ignite some sort of jealousy in people.
“Sometimes it’s a lot easier to allow ourselves to come across as being a little bit bitter or angry online or through conversation than to say ‘you know what, I’m really sad that I don’t have what you have and I’m not quite sure how I can be happy for you instead.’
“I’ve often found it quite an interesting but also very insensitive thing for an individual to do”, Sarah says, “to begrudge a loved one or even a complete stranger for celebrating and embracing something that they do have. Compassion goes both ways when it comes to either seeking love, finding love, having love or embracing love, and why should someone who doesn’t have it be entitled to feelings of begrudgery or jealousy?”
Now before you say “well I’m in a relationship and I think Valentine’s Day is a money racket!” – I hear you. Like with Christmas, we can get a bit wrapped up in the spending aspect of Valentine’s Day and forget what it all comes back to – the birth of baby Jesus, er, I mean love. And even though I’ve admitted I do love the PDAs on social media, it can be hard not to compare how you and your S/O spend Valentine’s Day to the many Insta couples who are coming home to a bed covered in rose petals. Sarah says that we may need to reign in our expectations this Valentine’s Day and bring it back to basics.
“We need to bear in mind that when we are comparing ourselves to someone else’s social media highlight reel, whether or not it’s gifts or dates, we don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. We always need to remember to trade the expectation of what we get for Valentine’s Day for appreciation of what we currently have. It’s not about the gifts, it’s not about the cards, it’s about the demonstration of love between two individuals as far as I’m concerned.” So you can tell your boyfriend or girlfriend you love them without spending a bomb? Game changer.
As we’ve established, there are definitely people out there that don’t like Valentine’s Day and would like to politely decline to get involved in the celebrations. So what do you do if you want to go all in this February and your other half simply isn’t on board? You can drop all the hints you want, Sarah says, but unfortunately, this is a holiday that takes two to tango.
“Valentine’s Day has to be a two-way street, especially in the 21st century. If you’re expecting him to buy you a bunch of flowers, why not buy him a bunch of flowers and model the behaviour that you would like to see in the future? If you want to be treated like a queen, make sure you treat your other half like a king. We’re living in a day and age where, as independent women, we can treat our men like this – and we should if that’s the type of treatment we want to receive in the future.
“Meet your partner half-way, you can’t convince them to like something that they don’t like, but you can show them what next year could look like by demonstrating the behaviour or thoughtfulness that might make a lasting impact.”
So whether you’re single, in a relationship or just a plain old Valentine’s Day Scrooge, there are lots of ways to enjoy February 14th this year, so why not try one? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And even if you decide you want to treat it like any other day, that’s fine too – just don’t get mad at the happy couples who want to shout their love from the rooftops. Hey, it could be you one day.