This month, storefronts dripping in various hues of red and pink grapple for the attention of those who eagerly anticipate, or possibly dread, Valentine's Day.
Amid the hype of the holiday of love, another celebration has gained momentum in the last decade: Galentine’s Day.
Upon initial inspection, everything about this unofficial holiday appears to be the epitome of friendship-themed aesthetic — cute heart-shaped cookies, DIY photo booths and, most importantly, camaraderie with your closest friends. Coined in 2010 by an episode of the sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” Galentine’s Day falls on Feb. 13 and is all about “ladies celebrating ladies,” according to Leslie Knope, the show’s main protagonist.
I've noticed Galentine’s Day is sometimes treated as a replacement for Valentine’s; if you’re single, something needs to fill the void of a relationship. But I'd argue the unofficial holiday is not just a stand-in for Valentine's Day. It is a holiday unto itself, a complement to Valentine’s Day.
Both days celebrate important bonds with the people who mean the most in your life, and they do not need to compete with one another.
Valentine’s Day has evolved significantly since my elementary school days of swapping notes and candies with classmates. Back then, everyone felt valued and appreciated, for they were guaranteed not just one, but 20 or more small gifts. However, as we transitioned into adolescence and adulthood, the dynamics surrounding Valentine’s Day have significantly changed. The emphasis on communal exchange has shifted to private gestures, leaving those without partners feeling overlooked.
But as of late, I've found this exclusivity has unfortunately extended to Galentine’s Day. I’ve heard supporters of the unofficial holiday say, “Who needs a man when I have my friends?” — as though you must choose between the two. Their words posit the two holidays as opponents when that shouldn’t be the case.
If we associate Galentine’s Day with the idea that an individual needs to compensate for their singlehood, then we also fall prey to the commercialization that has infiltrated many holidays. Galentine’s Day, much like its romantic counterpart, has shifted focus from genuine celebration to consumerism and superficial gestures. In this context, Galentine’s Day risks becoming another opportunity for businesses to capitalize on new societal expectations.
The commodification of Galentine’s Day is almost inevitable, especially considering that the holiday originated from a sitcom, so it is especially important to keep its original spirit of celebrating friendship.