It’s the most love-ly time of the year! The CVS holiday section is displaying its annual array of chocolate-covered strawberries and conversation hearts. Dinner reservations for two are being booked left and right. Couples are getting a little too comfortable with each other on Locust Walk. Valentine’s Day is slowly approaching just as it has for the past 1,527 years.
This year is different, though.
Exactly a year ago, the pandemic was in full swing. At Penn, the undergraduate COVID-19 case count reached a semester high with 633 positive tests in one week. Two years ago, Penn was in a stage of Heightened Awareness, meaning that masks were mandated and students were limited to interaction within their pods.
Today, we are in a very different place. For most, the pandemic seems like a thing of the past with most people opting out of mask wearing in class and returning to their busy social schedules. With this sudden reversion to normality, it’s easy to forget just how different life was just a year ago.
To clarify, I use the term “post pandemic” informally. COVID-19 is not technically over. It is still defined as a public health emergency by the federal government and will continue to be until May of this year. With that being said, disregarding the immense progress that we have made since the start of the pandemic is futile and, frankly, depressing. The world is in a much better place today, so why not praise that?
This year marks the first time since 2020 where Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in its full, unadulterated glory. Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or somewhere in between, I urge you to take the day to share the love.
At the end of the day, Valentine’s Day is an occasion of love. That definition is typically conflated with romance, but I like to think of it as a day to honor all kinds of love: friendship, familial, and romantic. So, take your significant other out to dinner, watch a cheesy rom-com with your single friends, or walk to the store and buy yourself flowers. Regardless of who you choose to spend the day with, don’t take for granted the things we were unable to do a year ago.
Part of the reason that I’m so passionate about Valentine’s Day is due to my deep affinity for celebrations. I am, at my very core, a lover of holidays. My favorite days of the year have always included my birthday, the birthdays of my friends and family, and every other public holiday on the calendar.
Maybe it’s the fact that rituals, such as celebrating traditions, are proven to lower anxiety levels, especially in times of uncertainty. Maybe it’s the fact that celebrations are a unique time to experience a sense of belonging, something that is integral to human fulfillment. Or maybe it’s the fact that receiving flowers or a handmade card from a loved one simply makes me happy.
Sure, Valentine’s Day may not be the most important holiday on the calendar. When squaring up against the big ones like Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving, it almost seems irrelevant. That’s probably why it’s so easy to float through the day without acknowledging its existence. But I am a firm believer that, no matter the size or stature of a holiday, there is no excuse not to celebrate. If anything, our slow release from the pandemic is reason enough to treat this year as special.
Embrace this Feb. 14. Enjoy a dinner cruise across the Delaware River. Take a special Valentine’s Day tour of the Magic Gardens. If you’re a Halloween fan, head to the Lincoln Mill Haunted House for a love-themed blackout experience. Go on a Sweetheart Skate on the Delaware River front. If you’re over 21, listen to Betsy Ross’ love story alongside a handcrafted cocktail.
On campus, order a singing Valentine from the Glee Club to serenade a loved one. Head to Houston Hall to build a Valentine’s bag for yourself or someone else. Or, purchase a rose on Locust Walk from Wharton Latinos to support a good cause.
This Valentine’s Day, spend time with the ones you love. Hold their hands, admire their maskless faces, and tell them in person just how much you love them.
SANGITHA AIYER is a College first year from Singapore. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.