In elementary school, Valentine’s Day generally meant agonizing over which cards to exchange with classmates and scarfing down as many heart-shaped cookies at the class party as you could. But once you’re of an age where serious romantic relationships come into the picture, Valentine’s Day can take on a whole new meaning, whether you’re single or attached.
Celebrated in many countries — including the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia — Valentine’s Day imagery in the media evokes celebrations of romantic love, which may cause those not in a romantic relationship to feel cynical about the whole affair.
However, young women all over the country have found plenty of creative, empowering ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with friends, family, and loved ones that can take the pressure off of trying to make a grand gesture or feeling the need to have a romantic date. For example, “Galentine’s” events — where girlfriends get together on February 14 to celebrate friendship — are trending on college campuses.
“I do ‘Galentine’s Day’ with my girlfriends. This year, we are going to dinner and then to see Fifty Shades together. Basically, just like a regular weekend for us,” Morgan Wooden, a journalism student at Indiana University Southeast, said.
Orlando resident Maggie Hartman, a former University of Louisville residence hall assistant, said that she used to provide a fun alternative for her residents. “I made dinner for them and threw a party where we’d all watch Silence of the Lambs or Red Dragon,” she said.
Gathering a group together for a movie seems to be a popular option. “Some friends and I are having a movie marathon the night before — which is Friday the 13th — and then on the 14th we are going to watch a scary movie in theaters. It’s always good to have friends, and I think that Valentine’s Day can still be a day to spend with loved ones, not necessarily the one you’re dating,” said University of Southern Indiana student Kelsey Gilliatt McCracken.
Finding ways to show love for every special person in your life can be a way to counteract a barrage of Valentine’s advertising messages that focus merely on idealized celebrations of romantic love. Las Vegas artist Katie Stanley says Valentine’s Day should be about honoring all the special people in your life.
She says, “I find Valentine’s Day not just a day for romantic love but general love for all — all our friends, family, pets and nature. I find little things to do throughout the day to say I love being alive and surprising friends and strangers with random acts of kindness such as buying coffee for the person behind me in line, getting small things for teachers, notes for friends or just sincerely expressing thank you to the wonderful people in my life.”
With that sentiment in mind, here are the best ideas I collected on social media from my query to find unique, fun, and meaningful ways that everyone can celebrate Valentine’s Day:
- Organize a Valentine’s-themed “secret Santa” exchange with friends, and throw a party where you reveal all the gift-givers.
- Volunteer with an organization in your city that needs assistance. Give your love and positive support to those in need.
- If you’re in high school, spend an evening with friends writing positive affirmations on stacks of red and pink Post-It notes. Get to school early the morning of Friday, February 13, and place a note on every student locker and every classroom door.
- Spend Valentine’s Day at a local museum you’ve never explored, and then take the time to post some positive promotion for it on social media.
- Give your love to animals. Adopt a pet from a shelter or volunteer to help out at one.
- Gather a group of friends and take a “one tank” road trip to an area within driving distance of your city or school. Blog about your experience.
- “Anti-Valentine’s” singles parties are gaining popularity according to an ABC News report, and a quick Google search reveals that such events are scheduled everywhere. If you’re unattached, gather some friends and attend an event in your city. Who knows? You might even meet a romantic match!
- Fall in love with something new. Want to try yoga, painting, singing, hiking, writing, or any other activity? Give it a whirl on February 14.
- Fill a glass jar with 365 small slips of paper containing a positive note of love and kindness. Give it to someone you love on Valentine’s Day and tell them to pull one slip out every day for the next year.
- Send love someone else’s way. Spend the day practicing random acts of kindness for strangers.
- Visit your grandparents and ask them how they spent Valentine’s Day when they were young. Make them dinner and enjoy their company. Let them know how special they are to you.
- Love yourself! Spend the day doing only exactly what you want to do, not something you have to do for work or school.
Have other great ideas to share about how you’ll make the world a more lovely place this Valentine’s Day? Tweet them to me and Germ (@germzine) to share in the conversation. Also, for a detailed, fascinating look at the history of why we celebrate Valentine’s anyway, check out this special report from History.com: