Valentine’s Day is a tough one.
On the one hand, love is always good and never celebrated enough. Realistically speaking we all need the occasional nudge to voice our appreciation to the special somebody whose “special-ness” might get neglected in everyday drudgery of work, family and a mountain of dirty laundry.
On the other hand, the whole business is uncomfortably hetero and not a little sexist, suggesting that a woman’s happiness depends on a loving man. There is an unmistakably “feminine” (in the derogatory sense of the term) whiff of desperation and clinginess about Valentine’s Day.
The resourceful ladies in the feminist movement in the US of A have resolved this conundrum by adopting the cringe-free version: Galentine’s Day, introduced during the second season of Parks and Recreation. Galentine’s Day is a celebration of that underappreciated virtue that is a woman’s friendship with other women. There is a misperception that women are all jealous bitches in the workplace ready to trample any ambition seen in their female colleagues and jealous bitches in their private lives pretending to be friends with other women only to try to steal their husbands/boyfriends. Really, I’m not exaggerating. Try to think of a few examples of positive representation of women’s relationships with other (unrelated) women in the media and you will draw a blank. THIS is why Sex and the City was so revolutionary. (Here is a good recent article on this phenomenon more broadly.)
So hooray to Galentine’s Day. Because in real life all us lady people are surrounded by numerous other lady people providing us with happiness, support, advice and laughter. I can tell from professional and personal experience that lady people are GREAT.
But as great as Galentine’s Day is, it is still a bit exclusionary. Not all of our friends are women and some don’t like the gender binary to begin with. Really, who cares who your friends are, as long as they provide all the wonderful things that a friend provides? So Galentine’s Day is an improvement, but it is not quite there yet.
Finnish readers will know by now where I’m going with this, because Finns have solved the whole thing decades ago. You see, Finns were wary of the icky pinkness of Valentine’s Day from the beginning. The joke goes like this:
The wife is mooching so visibly that even the husband notices, prompting the compulsory question of “What’s wrong?” “You never tell me that you love me” the wife responds. “I told you at our wedding ten years ago, didn’t I? Well, I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”
So Finns have never celebrated Valentine’s Day in the romantic sense of the term. Instead, 14 February in Finland (and in Estonia) is Ystävänpäivä (Sõbrapäev) – Friendship Day. It is a day when we give cards to our friends and hug them and tell them how awesome they are. What could be better than this? Not everyone has a “valentine”, but everyone has friends, and everyone loves to tell their friends that they’re great, as well as hear this in return.
I don’t think the idea is patented or even copyrighted, so feel free to implement it in your countries!
Hyvää ystävänpäivää everybody.