Valentine’s Day: A Sprinkle of Glitter in a Dreary Month


Erickson treasures memories of exchanging homemade Valentines in elementary school. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Valentine’s Day is a holiday people love to hate. A quick Google search provides hundreds of op-eds calling Valentine’s Day a commercialized “Hallmark Holiday,” merely part of the corporate machine. However, all of my Valentine’s Day memories revolve around fun and simple celebrations of love, rather than the material aspects of the holiday.

My love for Valentine’s Day started as a kid in elementary school. I would spend hours the night before school making handmade cards for all my classmates, decorating my “shoebox mailbox” and preparing the perfect Valentine’s Day outfit, complete with a pink heart headband. Throughout the school day — with my excitement amplified by a Hershey’s Kiss and Fun Dip-fueled sugar high — I waited in anticipation until I got home to meticulously go through each of my valentines. The handwritten notes from my friends, pink and red construction paper hearts and glue-and-glitter-coated cards always made me smile. The tradition of exchanging cards wasn’t about spending money, as both the cards and shoeboxes were handmade, and it wasn’t about romantic love which addresses the cynicism that Valentine’s Day excludes single people. They were simple, inexpensive gestures of kindness that celebrated platonic love between friends.

I have carried the excitement of exchanging cards with me into adulthood, and it has remained one of my favorite Valentine’s Day traditions. Interestingly, it is one that is relatively exclusive to the holiday. While cards are sometimes exchanged on other holidays, they are not as integral a tradition as valentines are on Valentine’s Day. For a holiday that is so often characterized as commercial and materialistic, cards are one of the simplest and most thoughtful gestures someone can make for a person they love.

Other traditional Valentine’s Day gifts are flowers and chocolates, which are some of the least materialistic gifts you can give because they are consumable. They can be enjoyed and appreciated but don’t add to the mountains of clutter filling everyone’s shelves. Of course, there will always be people who go overboard with gifts. However, the traditional practices, and ultimately the essences of Valentine’s Day, revolve around simple gestures: quality time, thoughtful cards and of course, pink, glitter and hearts — who could hate that?

Valentine’s Day is also unique because it does not revolve around family, like so many other holidays do. There is societal and familial pressure to host Christmas parties and elaborate Thanksgiving feasts, which can be incredibly stressful for the organizer and those who don’t have solid relationships with their families. Valentine’s Day provides an opportunity for people to celebrate with their chosen families — whether it be a significant other or friends — without the added pressure of a family gathering. Organizing a simple event, like cooking a meal together or having a “Galentine’s” Day movie night can be just as meaningful and fun as a large, family holiday party.

Another beautiful aspect of Valentine’s Day is where it lands on the calendar: Feb. 14. February can be a tough time of year. The days are short, and, at least in New York, you can go weeks without seeing the sun. There is no holiday cheer, and the spring months still feel far away.

Seeing construction paper hearts in the store, a sea of people dressed in pink and red or someone carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the subway brightens what is an incredibly dark and dreary day. Many people are also plagued with seasonal depression this time of year, so a celebration of love, whether it be platonic or romantic, can be incredibly cathartic.

There are no other holidays that solely celebrate friendship, and since most wedding anniversaries occur in the summer, February is the ideal time to celebrate the people we love. This celebration doesn’t have to be grand— a simple card and a box of chocolates can bring a lot of light to a very gloomy month.

Ava Erickson, FCRH ’23, is a journalism and Spanish studies major from Denver, C.O.