Valentine’s Day in the USA….is it too much?

cut out hearts, which are different shades of pink and red, are shown against a light pink background.
By Rinck Content Studio via Unsplash

There’s a common stereotype that British people are reserved and unemotional…when it comes to Valentine’s Day, there might be an element of truth in there.  In fact, there are some stark differences between how this day/holiday is celebrated in the UK compared to the USA.  As a reserved Brit, I have to say…the USA definitely does it better!

We spent three Valentine’s Days in the USA and I came to enjoy this holiday more and more each year.  I certainly enjoyed it much more than I was expecting to. Let me explain why…

Firstly, my husband and I don’t make a very big deal of this day.  We will usually buy each other a card and often plan a nice meal or order a takeaway but that’s it.  I should be clear, this isn’t to do with that ‘reserved Britishness’ I mentioned.  We tell each other we love each other a lot (at least daily), we just don’t particularly feel the pressure to make a big deal out of that one day. 

Plenty of other British couples really enjoy making the day special though, and obviously, that’s fine too.  Each to their own, as they say.

Secondly, in the UK this day is really for those who are in romantic relationships or those who would like to be. The card shops are full of Valentine’s cards but you won’t see many, if any, for teachers or colleagues or siblings.  They are firmly focused on boy/girlfriends, fiancé(e)s and spouses.  There are also many along the lines of, ‘Will you be my valentine?’ to cover those who have a crush and are waiting for Valentine’s Day to make that first move.

several hands are shown, face up, with a red heart painted across them.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

However, this has a major drawback for those who are on their own.  If you’re in a romantic relationship, this can be a lovely day. I mean, who doesn’t like being told that your partner loves you?  Great, but what if you’re single? 

Obviously, if you’re happy being single it’s not a big issue.  But for anyone who isn’t happy about that, or has perhaps just broken up with a partner, this day really stings.  It can leave you feeling very lonely and isolated and every mention of Valentine’s Day just reminds you that you aren’t in a romantic relationship.  I know, I’ve been there.

Before we moved to America, we were aware that many of the holidays were a lot ‘bigger’ than in the UK and Valentine’s Day seemed to be no exception.  Against the context of a British Valentine’s Day, you can understand why I was a bit apprehensive about what our first February 14th would be like in the USA.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised!

As the big day approached, it became obvious that there was an expectation for my kids to give valentines to their classmates at preschool.  This felt very strange to us, in the context of Valentine’s being about romantic love, but we went along with it.  I found some cards with a piece of candy and sat with my children to write out the names of their classmates.

PJ Mask valentine cards lie on a table with hear-shaped lollies beside them. A sharpie is also in view.
Valentines for classmates

While I was sorting these PJ Mask valentines, I had a bit of an epiphany.  Perhaps it wasn’t ‘over the top’ to give cards to friends…perhaps this was actually a really lovely thing to do. After all, there is more than one kind of love in the world, isn’t there?  Why not celebrate them all on this holiday?

The love we have for our friends, siblings or classmates may not be the same as the love we feel for our spouses or partners, but it’s still love.  And if we care about someone, we should definitely let them know that.

I realised that a Valentine’s Day which celebrates all kinds of love is actually much more inclusive.  You don’t need to be part of a relationship to be loved so this day should be for everyone. 

Once I reframed my view of the day as being more inclusive, it totally changed my experience of it.  I could see how lovely it is to tell your friends you love them and has nice is to tell your kids or siblings that you care.  In fact, why wait until 14th Feb each year? Tell them today!

Now even Galentine’s Day is increasing in popularity in America.  Originally featured in an episode of Parks and Recreation, this fictional holiday has taken on a life of its own.  Taking place on 13th February each year, it is a day dedicated to celebrating female friendships.  More celebrations of love? I’m fully on board now.

It really didn’t take long for me to realise that the USA isn’t ‘over the top’ on Valentine’s Day.  If anything, the UK is ‘under the top’…well, you know what I mean!  

Basically, I’m now in love with an inclusive Valentine’s Day.   I just need to convince the rest of the UK…