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Rachel Campbell explores the reasons why Valentine’s Day is more than just a capitalist ruse.

I understand the Valentine’s Day hate. Walking into the shops in February and seeing the plastic roses, stuffed hearts and infinity necklaces is enough to make you denounce the holiday as a capitalist ploy. Of course it is; isn’t everything? Yet other holidays don’t get the same treatment. Each year we surrender ourselves to Christmas even though we know it’s far from what it was originally intended to celebrate. At Halloween, we dress up or buy sweets for trick-or-treaters, though we don’t bother to remind ourselves of its pagan origins. Yes, that’s quite a sad reflection on today’s society, but I would argue we need these excuses to celebrate, and no time more so than in the doom and gloom of February. 

For students, the combination of dreary weather and deadlines makes February a hard month to get through. I, for one, could use an excuse to get dressed up in pink or red. After plowing through the rain to get to my 9am lecture each Wednesday, I need a burst of joy bigger than ticking another assignment off my to-do list. Why not give ourselves something more to look forward to?

Perhaps it’s something in the Scottish sensibility that makes the thought of celebrating (or even acknowledging) the idea of love nothing short of nauseating - we’re not known for being overly emotional. I think it’s time to break that chain. Valentine’s doesn’t have to just be about romantic love: why not take the excuse to call your dad and tell him you love him, or drop off some flowers to your best friend? You might not be used to outwardly showing them affection, but fight that feeling. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to be reminded that you care about them?

"Perhaps it’s something in the Scottish sensibility that makes the thought of celebrating (or even acknowledging) the idea of love nothing short of nauseating."

Valentine's Day hate is no doubt spurred on by the “single” versus “taken” divide, but the point is that any of us can use this holiday as a reminder to tell the people in our lives how much they mean to us. As cringe as “Galentine's” can be, celebrating the love you have for your friends is just as valid, whether it's baking heart shaped cookies together or doing Euphoria-esque make-up and heading to Kokomo.

Of course, celebrating romance is fun too. As someone who lives with their boyfriend, Valentine’s Day is a good excuse for us to make time and effort for one another. Being on busy opposite schedules, it’s easy to just co-exist rather than appreciating our relationship. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly, but it’s a good reminder to have a nice meal together wearing something other than joggers. I’m looking forward to putting on a dress and lipstick, and having a chat about something other than: “Did you put a washing on?”

February 14th can be a good opportunity to support small businesses like florists or card shops if you’re worried about feeding the capitalist production line. You could choose a local restaurant rather than a chain to talk to your partner over a meal, or buy them a book you know they’d love from an independent bookstore. We don’t have to buy a two for one deal on chocolates and flowers from Tesco every year to celebrate Valentine’s. 

In essence, I think we could all use a good reason to spread some love, particularly when there aren’t many other causes for celebration. Don’t just buy a gift or card because you feel obligated. You don’t have to spend loads or follow the heart-shaped propaganda, but Valentine’s Day seems as good a time as any to find ways of telling the people in your life you love them in a way they’ll appreciate.


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