Celebrate Valentine's Day Your Way

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of love you can celebrate on Valentine’s Day — you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with your mother, perhaps by taking her to the ballet. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar | ) Romantic love isn’t the only kind of love you can celebrate on Valentine’s Day — you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with your mother, perhaps by taking her to the ballet. (credit: Alexandre Kaspar | )

Saint Valentine’s Day, or Valentine’s Day as it is generally shortened, is commonly regarded as one of the most divisive of holidays. For some, the day is a bitter reminder of a failed relationship or unwelcomed loneliness. For others, Valentine’s Day is a chance to tell someone how you feel, celebrate a relationship or marriage, or just eat pounds and pounds of chocolate. Regardless of your own circumstances, it’s safe to say that at this time of the year the general population is split between those who anticipate and celebrate the holiday and those who simply abhor it.

Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday that commemorates love and affection of intimate companions, held every year on Feb. 14. The holiday was originally established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 CE to celebrate Saint Valentine, an early Christian martyr. Although it was deleted from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, the holiday is still sometimes religiously observed. For others who view the day as more commercial than religious, Valentine’s Day is merely a day where people celebrate their significant others by giving and receiving flowers, chocolates, holiday cards, and other gifts.
Over the years, Valentine’s Day has rallied both big fans and big opposition. Those who find the day unbearable usually argue that Valentine’s Day is merely a commercial holiday invented to encourage people to buy copious amounts of themed merchandise. Those who typically enjoy the holiday usually react negatively to how strong the opposition against Valentine’s Day is, arguing that the holiday is a fun and established way to remind a loved one how you feel about them. A large majority of the time, a person’s opinion on the holiday is determined by their own relationship status — and one would be surprised by just how drastically some people can react.

Take Trevor Mcwanda, for example, who in 2005 invented Singles Awareness (or Appreciation) Day (SAD). This humorous holiday, also celebrated annually on Feb. 14, serves as an alternative holiday for those who are single on Valentine’s Day. People who observe SAD often claim that Valentine’s Day in itself is a “Hallmark holiday,” and gather together to celebrate their single status and remind themselves as well as the couples around them that one doesn’t need to be in a relationship to celebrate love or life. The idea behind SAD is fairly simple: If you happen to not be in a relationship, you can still make this Valentine’s Day special for someone else, maybe even a stranger. This is why celebrators of SAD are encouraged to spend the day volunteering or performing community service. Some other ways that observers of SAD commonly celebrate the holiday include attending singles’ events and mixers, gathering together with loved ones, or treating themselves to a gift. More information about this holiday can be found on Mcwanda’s website, www.singlesawareness.com.

Here at Carnegie Mellon, as well as most places, the population is split between those who enjoy Valentine’s Day for what it is and those who simple hate the holiday. “I love Valentine’s Day because it is a day that celebrates love,” said first-year CIT student Whitney Aaronson. “People often forget that you can still celebrate love regardless of if you happen to be in a relationship or not. It’s also a perk that stores stock their shelves with chocolate — I love chocolate.”

It’s safe to say, however, that the majority of students here at Carnegie Mellon don’t see the holiday positively. Out of a total of 50 randomly selected students polled in the UC, only 22 percent said that they actually enjoyed Valentine’s Day. Sophomore electrical and computer engineering major Ryan MacDonald represents the majority. “I feel as though I might feel differently if I were in a relationship,” MacDonald said, “but I think Valentine’s Day is another holiday where you’re pressured into buying things that you don’t need — like Christmas.”

Another aspect of Valentine’s Day that many people take issue with is that the day encourages specialized behavior. Because there is a day that dictates things you should do for a loved one or someone special, people tend to think that this implies giving candy or flowers to a significant other is strange and unwarranted behavior on any other day of the year. “There’s nothing preventing you from doing the things you typically do on Valentine’s Day on any other day of the year, “ MacDonald said. “I don’t see what’s so special about that [particular] day.”

For those students who happen to be in committed relationships, sometimes Valentine’s Day can take on a different light. “I guess my feelings toward Valentine’s Day depend on whether I have someone special to share it with or not,” said sophomore psychology major Arielle Etchells. “Even when I am in a relationship, I still don’t think Valentine’s Day is a big deal, so I guess I’m kind of indifferent to the holiday. While I do love chocolate, and any girl likes getting flowers, I think they’re cute any time of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day, but I would never turn them down.”

If you are one of those people who simply can’t stand it when Valentine’s Day season arrives — grocery stores beginning to stock their aisles with bags of colorful heart shaped candies, red-and-pink decorations filling the windows of almost every storefront, and couples walking around holding hands and mocking you with there unbearable happiness — fear not: There are ways that you can still have fun on Valentine’s Day without getting commercial about it.

Firstly, Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love. Oftentimes people tend to forget that love comes in all shapes and sizes, so naturally, there are plenty of ways to celebrate it. Why not remind your single friends, or even your friends who are in relationships, that you love them? Organize a group event. Go out to eat at an ironically non-romantic chain restaurant like Applebee’s or Subway, host a horror movie night at your house, or throw a singles’ potluck. There are plenty of people that you could celebrate with on Valentine’s Day, however un-obvious or unlikely they may seem. Maybe treat your mother to a trip to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre or your best friend to the Valentine’s on Ice event at the Schenley Park skate rink to show them how much you care about them.

If you are keen on the idea of volunteering for others on Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of places where you can find work. The Space Gallery on Liberty Avenue is accepting volunteers to help out at its annual Love of Friends event on Feb. 14, during which people come together from the local community to celebrate the artists and musicians who give their time to provide our community with fantastic visuals and music. Maybe you might consider spending your day at Habitat for Humanity, a Pittsburgh soup kitchen, or helping others enjoy their Valentine’s Day at one of Pittsburgh’s many youth community centers.

Too often the message behind Valentine’s Day gets lost in the public disdain for the holiday or veiled in the over-commercialization. This Valentine’s Day, instead of storming around campus with a frown on your face and resentment in your heart, remember that it’s up to you to make the most of this holiday (however commercialized it may be). If you’re single, don’t begrudge Valentine’s Day for its reputation: Reinvent the holiday for yourself and celebrate the love, relationships, and people in your life who make each day of living so special.