Valentine’s value
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Valentine’s value


In an interesting turn of events, Valentine’s Day happened to fall on Ash Wednesday this year.

People wondered—some more seriously than others—which holiday to celebrate. I was curious as to why people thought these two holidays were incompatible until I remembered that Valentine’s Day, at least in modern times, have been celebrated in a very consumerist way.

Prices in Dangwa flower market were up, as expected, and restaurants have put out their couple’s promos. Even my local roasted chicken shop offered to put their chicken in a heart-shaped tin if you add P100.


While Valentine’s had become a retailer’s dream, Ash Wednesday on the other hand signals the start of Lent—a season of reflection and restraint—in the Catholic world.

In the Philippines at least, this means we do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday. Ideally, we should also avoid a mindless consumerist mindset and adopt self-discipline for the next 40 days. How, then, does one celebrate the two holidays together?

A Christian friend of mine asked if my thoughts about Valentine’s would change if I knew that it had pagan origins (Valentine’s was thought to be linked to the Roman fertility celebration of Lupercalia). I replied that it does not matter to me since I never thought of Valentine’s as a religious holiday anyway, despite it being named after a saint (or three saints, depending on which sources you trust). It seemed, though, that it might have mattered to him, similar to how some Christians avoid Halloween due to its pagan overtures.

Can one reconcile the history of a holiday with how it can be celebrated today?


A holiday is meant to remind us of a particular set of values. By commemorating heroes like Rizal and Bonifacio, for example, we are reminded that the Philippines is worth fighting for.

With Valentine’s Day, what values should we be reminded of? I told my Christian friend that I view Valentine’s as a day to remember love in all its forms. It is a day where we celebrate the value of love. Yes, most would be focusing on romantic love on this day.


But Valentine’s can also be celebrated as a family. It can also be a celebration of self-love. It is a day where we remember to express our love for others. There is no shame in showing affection. No, not on this day.

For me, personally, Valentine’s Day has always been connected to two grandparents’ birthdays as well our town fiesta. When I became a student in University of the Philippines Diliman, it also became associated with our UP Fair. As such, Valentine’s Day always reflected to me the value of loving our community. Simple home gatherings.

Humble but earnestly made food. The door always open and welcome to anyone who shared in our celebration. We showed love to our community by supporting local vendors through buying their kakanin, their paper-mache horses, and toy palayok.

When we celebrate holidays based on values, then the trappings become peripheral. We don’t have to break the bank just to celebrate love. Flowers and chocolates are nice and are ways in which we can show our appreciation to our loved ones, but they are not essential to the holiday. Dining out may be a special treat worth doing, but making a meal at home can be just as special.

As much as we can free ourselves from the consumerist pressures of the present, we can also reconcile with the holiday’s past and make it something of value today. Take Columbus Day in the United States, for example. Some have decided to celebrate it as Indigenous People’s Day as a way to counter the celebration of colonization and commemorate the harm it brought to millions of indigenous people in North America. Holidays, then, are dynamic cultural artifacts that can evolve. What holidays symbolized to people before does not have to be what they mean today.

If the social purpose of holidays is to remind us of our evolving values, how can Valentine’s go against any love-based religion? We can celebrate love in accordance with our faith. One does not have to break a fast in order to show love. Expressions of love do not have to be extravagant or driven by pride. Expressing faith can be a way of expressing love, and vice versa. We can also opt not to celebrate a particular holiday altogether if it does not align with our values.

Commemorate the holidays that matter to you. Better yet, turn holidays into something personally meaningful. You will find that you can celebrate more freely and without undue obligation.

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TAGS: opinion, Valentine's Day

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