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Valentine's Day: Not Just for Couples

Veena Thomas

February 14 brings to mind images of roses, chocolates; cute, cuddly, stuffed animals; and people dining out and declaring undying love for each another. But has it always been this way? Must it be like this?

Several legends describe how this holiday came to be. According to one, St. Valentine was a Christian martyr in the third century who was arrested and imprisoned. While in jail, he fell in love with the jailer's blind daughter. Wanting her to have a token of his affections, he wrote her a sonnet in ink that he squeezed from violets. As legend has it, the sonnet somehow enabled her to see again. Yet the jailer was not impressed with Valentine, and had him killed the next day. But as a farewell message, the saint gave the daughter a note signed "From your Valentine."

Another legend holds that in ancient Rome, on the eve of Valentine's Day, the name of each young lady was placed in a vase and each young man drew a lady's name. For the remainder of the year, the two were valentines' and exchanged little gifts. Hmm a girlfriend picked out of a hat, or a vase sounds like those Romans were desperate!

But somewhat random matchmaking is present even today. In my high school, a popular fundraiser for student groups was Data Match, a voluntary survey for students to fill out. Anyone could complete the form, but on Valentine's Day, interested students would have to pay four dollars for a list of students of the opposite sex with whom they were supposedly very compatible. This computerized determination was based on such important questions as hair color, height, age, favorite activities, curfew time, and favorite desserts.

Such commercialism, sadly, is not uncommon in regard to Valentine's Day. Even as early as January, I see stores decorated in red and pink, and shelves of high-priced, substandard chocolates, all in the name of the holiday. Signs urge men to buy their girlfriends the very best and that there's only one way that a "two month's salary can last forever."

Commercialism has other effects; it brings Valentine's Day to everyone's awareness. For those people in relationships, everything is great, except for the stress of ensuring that the day is perfect. But what about all of the single people in the country? Some people feel rather down on Valentine's Day because they are not in a relationship. The holiday has the ability to make people, even those perfectly content to be single, feel a little wistful. Everything looks so perfect the roses, the chocolate, and the fancy dinners.

But fret not. Valentine's Day is only one day out of the year. Perhaps it should be celebrated as a holiday to spend with the people you love, including a boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, mother, father, sibling, or anybody else. By broadening the scope of the day, you can use it as a day to reach out and show someone that you care. Even if you are not in a relationship, use the day as a reason to celebrate and to do something special. Bake brownies and spend quality time with your little sister, or go see Shakespeare in Love with your best friend. If you are in a relationship, enjoy the day with your partner, but take time to tell other people how much they mean to you. Valentine's Day should not be a depressing holiday for so many.

Remember in elementary school when everyone in the class would receive a valentine from everyone else in the class? There typically was nothing romantic behind those valentines, but everyone felt special for the day. Wouldn't it be nice if we could incorporate those into Valentine's Day again, even for those of us out of elementary school? In the beginning of high school, we distributed Valentine's Day cards to all of our friends. For some reason, this tradition stopped by senior year.

I'd like to see it come back; this year, perhaps I will try. I will be spending my Valentine's Day celebrating all of my relationships with those I care about. I urge all of you to do the same. Celebrate love and life with those you know; you just may make someone's day.