For many centuries, the month of February has been a special time set aside for love. Today, Valentine’s Day, commemorated on February 14, is filled with flamboyant romantic gestures, cheesy comedies, heart-shaped cookies and chocolates, lavish flower arrangements, and everything red, pink, or white. Displays of love are hard to miss at this time of year.

Though Valentine’s day was named after Saint Valentine, it’s unclear who he actually was. The story of this priest revolves around an act of self sacrifice. Some say he married young couples in secret; others say he helped Christians escape prison. What these stories have in common is that he was willing to lay down his life in the name of love–romantic or brotherly. To this day, his name is synonymous with what it means to love others well. It is a reminder to ourselves and others that love requires sacrifice. 

It’s easy for people to sit in a chair and criticize how cringey it is when the male lead in a movie rushes across a field or parking lot in the pouring rain and confesses his love for the girl. I’m definitely guilty of that myself (I mean come on now!). However, I don’t believe people can deny the feelings of excitement and anticipation they feel for the characters. There is something about a romantic gesture that makes people feel loved and appreciated. Even though advertised Valentine’s Day gifts are cliché and somewhat prosaic, the acts of love we often display on Valentine’s Day are necessary for everyone.  

We all get caught up in our everyday lives and overlook the importance of telling people that we love them. Never fear, that’s why we have Valentine’s day each year! A special day, almost exclusively for people to let their loved one’s know they’re loved. That’s the day I awkwardly hug my brother or attempt to make dinner for my parents. I hate to admit it, but I rarely tell my family “I love you.” I figure they know that already. There’s no need to put myself out there and tell them right? Sure, but I admit that being reminded that I’m loved is never a bad decision. When I was in elementary school, we had a parent-teacher conference in school and my mother took the opportunity to slip a letter to me in my desk. The next day I found it and it read, “We’re so proud of you.” It was the first time my parents relayed that type of message to me. It made my day. The letter made six-year-old me feel validated, and it still makes seventeen-year-old me feel appreciated and supported. When you’re in middle and high school, there are no more opportunities for this kind of parent-teacher conferences (here at the high school, a C- grade is what necessitates a conference, and would not likely result in a love letter from a parent). So when are they going to receive their note? Aha! Valentine’s day is the day. 

Each year without fail, my dad buys my mom Cookie Corner Cookies–her favorite. She always says, “Thanks honey” and rubs his back. For a long time, my brother and I weren’t interested in romance or anything else associated with Valentine’s Day; the only thing we looked forward to was helping our mom eat those delicious treats. We’d sit around the table after dinner while my parents sipped coffee, and we nibbled on a couple of cookies. As time went on, my brother and I still didn’t really care about Valentine’s Day, but we waited impatiently for our mom to open the red box. A box of cookies is a banal gift, especially if someone gets it every year, but there is something to be said about tradition. Repetition sets us up to have something to look forward to. And we love to look forward to things. There came to be an understanding that my family would spend time together on major holidays. I wasn’t always excited to go, but I have to admit that I am grateful for those moments. Laughing together, sharing memories, discussing daily tribulations, offering advice are essential to building a strong relationship with the people around you. For me, those happy nights spent eating cookies helped create the foundations for my relationship not only with my family, but with future people as well. 

Speaking of relationships, this wouldn’t be a Valentine’s Day article without talking about romance. A few years ago, my friend had a crush on a boy and was having a hard time telling him. She’d complain about how there was never a good time to confess. It was fun and exciting at first but after a couple months, I would say, “Just tell him!” But I also realized that she had a point. Confessing to someone is awkward, uncomfortable, and scary, especially if you’re unsure how the other person feels.The stakes are high; you have to play your hand just right. You risk the possibility of rejection, the feelings of humiliation, loss, and even more awkward tension. So when is the right time to confess? When is it the best time to ask someone out? There is no one answer to that question unfortunately. However, Valentine’s Day is not a bad option. Asking a crush to be your Valentine is a good way to figure out if you’re stuck in the friend zone or not. If you get rejected then I guess you don’t have a Valentine, but the fear of rejection just leaves you stuck in an emotional limbo. If you don’t get rejected then you’ve secured a Valentine, and it could possibly open the door for a future relationship. From my very limited experience, I’d say just go for it. 

Valentine’s Day is approaching. You can roll your eyes at cliché displays of love but don’t let that stop you from loving others well. I hope this Valentine’s day, you enjoy the company of your favorite people.