5 Problems With Valentine's Day

There's nothing wrong with celebrating love, but here are a few issues with this holiday.

Some embrace Valentine’s Day because they love to celebrate love. Some dread Valentine’s Day because they feel obligated to prove their affection to a significant other. A third group of people would forgo the day altogether if it means not having to once again face a longing that’s unfulfilled.

For everyone who’s ever wanted to go to sleep on Feb. 13 and wake up on Feb. 15, here are a few reasons to ignore Valentine’s Day rather than buying into the hype:

1. The holiday was hijacked to turn a profit

Valentine’s Day has a convoluted past and present, but it began with purer motives. The exact details of Saint Valentine are a bit muddy, there are actually a few different Roman saints who were martyred between the third and fifth centuries who could have been Saint Valentine. These saints are the source of the tradition of encouraging love and writing “valentines,” which the holiday exhibits today—perhaps the sole remaining untainted practice.

In the fifth century, the Catholic Church attempted to assimilate Valentine’s Day observance with the pagan Roman festival, Lupercalia, to sanitize the festival’s unchristian ways. The festival was a notoriously drunken, naked party in pursuit of the gods’ blessings of fertility.

Only a few hundred years ago was it turned into a holiday where businesses rake in big bucks by convincing us to buy cards, candy, flowers and other commercialized gifts (now to the tune of $18 billion annually). We risk taking holidays for granted when we ignore historical roots and cash in on a romanticized (and hypersexualized) version that satisfies our baser cravings of greed and lust.

2. It places romance over other kinds of love

In our sex-obsessed culture, romance seems to always get the spotlight.

In our sex-obsessed culture, romance seems to always get the spotlight. There’s far less acknowledgement of the slow, steady work of loving a spouse and children day by day, year after year. We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but these get much less buzz than Valentine’s. Brotherly and sisterly affection are rarely worth mentioning. You’re unlikely to see an entire month of commercials and merchandise leading up to Friendship Day (which is August 3, by the way).

Romance is a wonderful thing, but there are different kinds of love, so why act like romance is better than the other kinds? Each has its place, so we shouldn’t elevate one at the expense of the others.

3. It’s turned into Singleness Awareness Day

Every person who doesn’t have “someone special” knows when Valentine’s Day hits. Why? Because it’s plastered all over television, the Internet and their “taken” friends’ conversations.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating love, but a person’s value isn’t rated on their relationship status, so why make such a big deal over a day that excludes them from participating? As a favor to unattached single people in our social circles, let’s stop using love as a dividing factor rather than a uniting one.

4. It makes expressions of love seem reserved for special occasions

Couples already have several holidays they’re expected to celebrate in certain ways. On their anniversary, they go out for a fancy dinner. At Christmas, they have mistletoe. At New Year’s Eve, they kiss when the clock strikes midnight. Sometimes it can seem like if they just do the right things on anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day and the like, they’re good to go for the rest of the year.

But a healthy relationship will include communication of love far more than a few times a year. If there’s no regular interaction of intentional affection and service between couples except on special occasions, that’s parallel lives, not a relationship. (By the way, God takes regular communication and affection (and even sex) in marriage pretty seriously. Read 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.)

Likewise, all the hype around Valentine’s Day encourages men to express their love with roses and chocolates. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this—sometimes they are the perfect gift—there are so many different ways to communicate affection.

Honest affection is communicated through intentional acts specifically for one other person. That’s the point of a relationship, right? Two people date or get married because they share something unique with each other and no one else. Such powerful love should elicit more than a generic gift that anyone else could’ve gotten a woman.

Get creative with expressing your affection, not using Valentine’s clichés as a crutch.

5. It glorifies ‘emotional porn’

Theaters tend to cash in on what audiences feel obligated to watch in the middle of February: namely, chick-flicks. The type of movies promoted around Valentine’s Day are usually little more than “emotional pornography.” By that I mean that they present idealized stories of romance, which, in a similar way to visual pornography, can be harmful to our expectations in real life.

When we go crazy over a holiday that glorifies picturesque performances of wooing rituals, we neglect the bigger perspective of what love is.

We’ve all seen poorly acted, sappy movies with predictable plots and unrealistic love stories. It’s easy movie material that makes viewers feel good through projecting unrealistic perfection and immaculate emotional fulfillment real relationships could never provide. No man can perform flawlessly under such lofty expectations, so let’s not pretend perfection is attainable.

Sure, you’re free to observe Valentine’s Day (if you’re married, you might catch heat if you don’t do something romantic). Love isn’t a bad thing to celebrate. Authentic selfless affection for people in our lives is the primary calling of humanity, especially if we’re trying to be faithful to Jesus’ call to “love one another.” But when we go crazy over a holiday that glorifies picturesque performances of wooing rituals, we neglect the bigger perspective of what love is.

Love isn’t about romantic fulfillment we can get out of someone else; it’s about fulfilling a commitment to the well-being of another person. When we set aside the expectations of society, rosy holidays and even well-meaning friends, we can begin to take an honest look at love as it’s meant to be.

21 Comments

Ramon T. Ayco

1

Ramon T. Ayco commented…

Beautiful and lovely article.

Kara Swank

1

Kara Swank commented…

These are my reasons why I find this article off base.

1. Highjacked to make a profit --> As with any other time, it is what you make it. If you want to make the holiday about material things, you will. If that's not what you're about, you won't. Boycotting a holiday to prevent someone from turning a profit is a horrible excuse to avoid showing your loved one some extra love. If you are really worried about this one, you might want to move to Alaska and take up homesteading. Otherwise, someone, somewhere may make a profit off of you in the near future.

2. It places romance over other kinds of love --> Romance in this world is often put to the side and forgotten because of busy lives, jobs, and obligations. Any time a couple has the chance to celebrate their love to one another is welcomed. Romance should always be celebrated. That does not mean other types of love are sacrificed or forgotten. My love for my friends, family, children, and even dogs remain steadfast. Promise! Much in the same way that a mother can have a special day for each one of her children, yet still loves each one just as much, there can be a holiday for one without detracting from the others.

3. It's turned into single's awareness day --> Showing love towards a loved one is now a dividing factor? Really? What next? Should couples only ever dine in private in case a single diner at the next table is offended? Why should those of us who are happily in love hide our love? Grow up and embrace your life, whether your are single, dating, or have been married for 25 years. Certainly there is someone in your life that you love and can show your love to, even if you are "unattached" on Valentine's Day.

4. It makes special expressions of love seem reserved for special occasions --> Coming from a married woman and mother of an 18 month old, I love special occasions! Any time I have the excuse to spend more than 5 minutes on my hair and makeup, pick out a non-practical outfit that sits in the far end of my closet hardly worn, and put on shoes that have a heel higher than 1 inch is welcomed with open arms. That is not to say my husband and I don't express love to each other every day. We do. A special occasion to celebrate our love does not diminish our day to day interactions, rather it highlights them and gives us time to enjoy them together.

5. It glorifies "emotional porn" --> I am a huge movie fan. I love all types of movies, including those that fall in the sappy, romance type. I enjoy movies, because often times, they are a nice break from reality. If sappy romance isn't your cup of tea, go drink some coffee. Nobody is forcing you to watch them (and if your girlfriend/significant other is, show her some love and suffer through...I'm sure she will suffer through a game, hunting show, or whatever for you at some point in your relationship). If "emotional porn" is such a harmful thing, you might want to ban all fairy tales and disney movies as well.

In the end, everything is what you make it. Maybe you should take a look at your own motivations if you feel threatened by a holiday intended to celebrate the purest thing our world has, love. If the world celebrated it a little bit more, we'd have happier place to live.

Eric

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Eric replied to Kara Swank's comment

I believe you were mistaken when you said "...a holiday intended to celebrate the purest thing our world has, love."

Valentine's day is intended to celebrate eros, romantic love, which is NOT the purest thing our world has. The purest thing our world has is agape, unconditional love.

I agree with the article that eros is definitely given the spotlight over the other 3 loves (agape, philea, storge)

Andrew Michael Upchurch

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Andrew Michael Upchurch commented…

This article contains my thoughts about this holiday almost completely. Well said John.

Dave Licklider

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Dave Licklider commented…

Love this. We are also told in Scripture not to hold one day above another. I'm not anti-holiday but I do dislike the commercialization of every holiday we observe. Valentine's Day does seem to mock those who are single (many for godly reasons). I'm happily married and agree that special times for couples are important but should not be coerced by popular consensus.

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