Legend has it that St. Valentine was a rebel. So history tells us we can—and should!—expand this holiday beyond romantic love to include all those we love and make it our own.
Between being surrounded by heart-shaped everything and feeling pressure to have the most romantic night of the year, it’s hard to escape Valentine’s Day.
“It’s not a secret that society has historically placed a ton of emphasis—and pressure—on being in a relationship or having a date on Valentine’s Day,” says Victoria Rodriguez, LMSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in coaching people going through life transitions. “Though this pressure still exists in some forms, we are in a new age where being in a romantic relationship is not the defining factor of a person and celebrating each other, as well as ourselves (with a dash of humility), should be a normal occurrence.”
Whether you’re single, married, or in one of the many spaces in between, it’s important to remember that there can be a lot more to celebrate during this occasion. And what “more” means is up to you. “Be a rebel,” Rodriguez says.
One version of the St. Valentine story portrays him as a rebel who risked his life to secretly marry couples who were not legally permitted to wed, says Caroline McBride, a rom-com novelist. McBride encourages all of us to “channel the fearless saint of love and rebel against the misconception that the day is only meant to celebrate romance.”
How, you’re wondering? “Jump on the inclusivity bandwagon and think of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate everyone you care about,” McBride says.
After all, for many of us, our first Valentine’s Day memories involved giving cards and little gifts to anyone and everyone we wanted. It’s that kind of expansiveness we should still employ when Feb. 14 rolls around—expressing love to not only our romantic partners but to those we love platonically as well.
McBride agrees, recalling her personal Valentine’s Day induction memories: “Elementary school programmed me to think of Valentine’s Day as a platonic celebration through mandatory card exchanges with all classmates,” she says. “As adults, it’s a good idea to check in on your friends via text or email, as the pressure caused from expectations of the day can stress out singles as well as those in relationships.”
For those who are flying solo, start new traditions. McBride advocates going out to dinner as a group, exchanging gifts with friends instead of just romantic partners, or organizing a potluck in one’s home or a physical activity together like yoga, spinning, or hiking.
And while you’re spreading the love, consider those who might need it most. “We can look at this as a day of taking loving action, such as volunteering somewhere or visiting shut-ins or seniors who do not have a family,” says Elisa Robyn, PhD, wealth relationship expert and author of a spiritual romance novel, The Way of the Well. “Think of all the holidays we have that involve buying gifts or spending money on large meals. But we do not have a holiday that is just about being loving in the world. We can choose, as we see fit, to turn the day into one of sharing and spreading kindness with those around us.”
Robyn suggests walking dogs at a shelter, volunteering with a friend or family member, or running a race to raise money for a good cause. And sometimes gestures don’t have to be that grand. “Say please and thank you to everyone you meet,” she says, “or write a positive comment on someone’s blog post, or greet people by name if they have a name tag.”
And there’s no better person to show love to than yourself, so celebrate with some self-care, as well. “Start a tradition of a heart wellness day,” advises relationship expert Tara L. Skubella. “Learn breath work, meditate, and eat heart-healthy foods.”
Ultimately, Valentine’s Day is yours to celebrate however you’d like. A bathtub full of bubbles, paired with a flute of your favorite bubbly beverage? Volunteering with a local charity? Starting a new way to celebrate with a romantic partner or platonic friend? Why not?
By inventing your own traditions, the holiday will be more meaningful—and fun.