I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, but I think I’m supposed to.
At least, that’s what social media and conversations with other singles seem to suggest.
The eye rolling, the long sighs, the shaking heads, the nickname “Singles Awareness Day.” It’s all meant to show annoyance with a holiday centered around a relationship that we don’t have.
I’ve heard all the arguments, too.
“Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday invented by Hallmark and the flower shops to make money.”
“We should be telling people we love them 365 days a year, not just on one special day.”
“I’m not into anything pink or that is adorned with hearts.”
“Flowers are a waste of money.”
But it’s not just singles who dislike the holiday. I’ve heard grumbling from my married and dating friends, too. The idea that everyone’s Valentine’s Day must have a fascinating tale of romance puts way too much pressure on the couple and the holiday itself. Parents feel the pressure to make their kids Valentines look Pinterest-perfect when they send them off to school.
So because of all this I’ve always been a little hesitant to tell people that I don’t dislike February 14th. And I don’t deal with it by ignoring it either. I don’t hide from social media nor do I sit at home if I want to meet friends out for dinner. (Although, I have made the mistake of shopping in Target on the day before Valentine’s Day. It might as well have been Christmas Eve. I noted to never do that again.)
I guess I just don’t place a lot of expectations on Valentine’s Day.
At the risk of Jesus juking a holiday centered around love, stuffed teddy bears, and chalky candy hearts, I have a theory: I think a lot of us hate the holiday so we won’t be disappointed by it.
For those of us who are single, we hate Valentine’s Day because it is a glaring reminder of one more aspect of a relationship we want but are lacking. (It’s interesting to note how many of us suddenly become believers in the greatness of the holiday the minute we do fall in love, though.)
To be fair, we can’t downplay the pain that accompanies singleness when it feels like everyone around us is blissfully in love and we’re not. From time to time, the stars align, everyone in your social circle falls in love, and February 14th could not come along at a worse time. It happens. And for that year, it’s a struggle to get through the holiday without tears.
But if year after year, we spend our time and energies hating it, then maybe we need a heart check. Maybe we’ve become bitter about what we don’t have.
I think when Paul told us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,” he meant in all of life, even Valentine’s Day. Are there some years it can be a bit more difficult than others? Sure. And it might be in that year you need someone to weep alongside you. That’s okay.
Lest you think my lack of hatred for Valentine’s Day leaves me as an avid supporter, don’t be deceived. I’m not saying everyone should love the holiday. I think many of the arguments against the holiday are valid. I don’t buy into the over-commercialized hype, I don’t make crafts that are pin-worthy, and red heart-shaped boxes filled with cheap chocolates are not my thing.
But here’s what I keep coming back to: I don’t think I can tell people I love them too much. Not my nephews and niece. Not my parents and brothers. Not my dear friend who just drove a U-Haul across four states to help me move and unpack. I think if I were better at expressing my love and appreciation for people the other 364 days out of the year, then maybe taking Valentine’s Day off would be okay for me.
Last year, that same friend who helped me drive the U-Haul was in Africa on Valentine’s Day. She sent me an email just to acknowledge the day and let me know how much she loves and values our friendship. It meant so much that it made me want to do the same for my friends this year. No big craft, no gift that requires a lot of money, no sketchy chocolates—just a simple paragraph.
I know it’s the typical advice to tell singles to celebrate the love that you do have in your life on Valentine’s Day. I’ve heard it before—and I’ve rolled my eyes at it—but I had to admit that there’s a lot of truth to it. God has been faithful to provide people to walk alongside me and assure me that I am not alone. Since I’m not as good as I could be at expressing to them all they mean to me, I’ll take a declared holiday to practice becoming better at it.
Because, in the end, I’d much rather enjoy February 14th and let it push me towards gratitude than to waste a lot of energy railing against it. But maybe that’s just me.
A former junior high English teacher, Jessica Bufkin currently serves as Editor for SingleRoots, a website that encourages Christian singles to be intentional with their lives and offers many resources for to assist them, including a review of Christian dating sites.
Publication date: February 10, 2014