Every year on February 14, people celebrate Valentine’s Day by writing greeting cards, gifting flowers, and buying sweets, all to show affection and appreciation to their loved ones. The origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded in mystery, potentially tracing back to an ancient Roman holiday called Lupercalia.
Regardless, Valentine’s Day focuses on celebrating all the love in our lives, and over time, has extended to include family and friends rather than exclusively romantic relationships.
As such, The Medium spoke with students, staff, and faculty at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) about their plans for Valentine’s Day.
Francesca Velardi, a fourth-year student studying English, Italian, and creative writing, believes that Valentine’s Day is “A nice excuse to show the important people in your life that you love them. I don’t think Valentine’s Day should be limited to couples either since you can feel love for friends and family.”
Some families, like Velardi’s, have specific traditions—every year, she and her parents go out to a particular sushi restaurant close to home.
“I’m an only child, so when I was born my parents didn’t really know what to do with me on Valentine’s [Day],” she shares. People had offered to babysit Velardi for her parents, but they decided to bring her along for their special dinner. Since then, “Valentine’s Day has evolved into a family tradition. My parents and I go out for sushi, and we just celebrate being a family. The sushi restaurant we’d frequent has long been closed, but I have a lot of great memories from there and I treasure them.”
When it comes to celebrations for Valentine’s Day, things change when parenting is involved. UTM professor of psychology, Emily Impett—who specializes in close relationships, sexuality, and emotions—shares her perspective of Valentine’s Day as a parent of three children. “Since having kids, Valentine’s Day has taken on a different meaning. I spend the build-up to Valentine’s Day figuring out what kinds of Valentine’s Day cards my friends like, or think their friends would like,” Professor Impett shares.
Each of Professor Impett’s children have about 25 friends in their class. She works with her children to write Valentine’s Day cards for each of their friends. “I’m helping to make 75 cards. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of love, and this is what Valentine’s Day is all about: expressing that you value others and care about them.” As a relationship scientist, Professor Impett says, “Showing people you value, understand, and care about them is just about the best gift you can give to others.”
Not all UTM students, staff, and faculty are looking to only celebrate platonic and familial love—there are many lovebirds around the campus. Megan Freedman, a newlywed fourth-year student studying English, history, and creative writing, shares, “Valentine’s Day, to me, is about celebrating your nearest and dearest.” When Freedman lived in her hometown, “My friends and I showed our love and appreciation for each other by exchanging handmade cards.” While the practice has stopped since Freedman and her friends moved away from their hometown, the expressions of love have not.
Recently married, Freedman explains, “My husband and I don’t really make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, but last year we got dressed up and went to see Scream 5 (2022).” Freedman and her husband plan to take it easy this year, stating, “We’re keeping it low-key, I’m doing some baking, and we’re ordering takeout and watching The Sopranos.”
Naturally, the meaning of Valentine’s Day varies across person. Regardless of what your definition of Valentine’s Day is, whether your focus is on family, friends, or your partner, what matters is showing love to the people you hold dearest.