There is a strange phenomenon when, sometime around the middle of February, many St Andrews students experience flu-like symptoms – from pounding headaches to fatigue and weakness; a generalized discomfort and nausea is felt throughout the student body. However, neither snowy Christmas destinations nor the cold AM walk home from the Union can be held responsible – the real diagnosis is the approach of Valentine’s Day.
Historically, Valentine’s Day dates back to the third century, when the Catholic priest Saint Valentine performed marriages for love-struck couples in secret after Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men because he believed single young men would be better soldiers for Rome. Soon after the discovery of Saint Valentine’s actions, Claudius sentenced him to death. Centuries later, it seems that the passion for love that Saint Valentine fought for has dulled away, leaving very little romance behind.
The cynics ask, what’s so important about Valentine’s Day anyway? Why even celebrate at all? Most people regard the holiday as overrated and unnecessary, and above all, a stressful burden. Why put so much pressure on one single day? For new couples, the day is usually full of tension and questions – should you buy your significant other a gift, or is it too soon? What if they bring you one and you’re empty handed? And as far as cards go, even after hours of wandering around Paperchase and picking the perfect card, how can you write it to seem interested and sweet, but not overbearing and forward? On the other hand, for couples who have been together longer, the day is usually not full of as much excitement and nerves. Rarely do grand gestures of love occur with these couples, and sometimes, Valentine’s Day is totally brushed away and rescheduled. Then there are those who dread this day more than the latter: the singles. For them, this day is just another reminder of their loneliness and they usually end up drinking away their problems on the Ma Bells dance floor.
It can be seen that some here in St Andrews, and in our generation in general, have deviated slightly from Saint Valentine’s original message about love. But often all this stress and tension is almost self-created. While the holiday can be over-commercialized and over-dramatized, this is only because that is how we have made it. By focusing on the stressful and agonizing parts of it, we forget what it should really be about – celebrating love. With the busy lives we live, it is easy to think of love as overrated or to take it for granted. However, in reality, everyone wants to be loved and to have someone to care for. It’s just a matter of timing and the right person. And it is important that once we find this person, to never take them for granted and always find ways to show them how much they mean to us.
So, to the new couples, it is important to embrace the awkwardness and the nervousness that comes with a first Valentine’s Day gift, card or date. You’ll probably pick out a not so great gift, maybe get a card that says “My Condolences” by accident and spill pasta sauce all over your white shirt at Little Italy. But that’s okay, because what’s most important is that you are spending an evening with someone who you care about and that you have the chance to get closer to that person. On the other hand, to the older couples, it is important to remember that your other half is a gift, and that you should never take them for granted. Take time out of your busy life to plan something together, even if it is small. And to all the singles, this day should not remind you that you are alone. It should remind you that there are people who are in love, and that you will be one of those people soon enough. It should make you feel excited for whatever love is to come into your life.
So, this Valentine’s Day, don’t waste your time with nausea, anxiety, or stress – focus on the significance of the holiday and on how you have this opportunity to show those who you love just how much you love and care about them.
Image Credit: Akira Yamada