Just by a quirk of the calendar, two holidays fall right on top of each other this year.
Family Day, which is celebrated the third Monday in February cannot come any earlier than Feb. 15. Valentine’s Day is always Feb. 14.
Despite their proximity this year, one would be hard-pressed to find two holidays more different.
Valentine’s Day is all about romantic love. Family Day may have a love element to it, but if it does, it is a very different kind of love.
Valentine’s Day is an ancient holiday and like most things ancient, its origins are kind of murky. Suffice it to say, it was orginally the feast day of a Christian saint, possibly with ties to more ancient pagan rituals and probably morphed into a celebration of lovers based on popular culture (that being Chaucer and Shakespeare way back in the Day) only to be commercialized by burgeoning capitalism in the late 19th century.
Consequently, the day is also steeped in wildly varying traditions.
Family day is as new a holiday as we have with really no traditions associated with it. Instituted in May 2012, to be observed from 2013 onward, it is also as secular a holiday as we have and although politically couched in language of the then-Liberal B.C. government as being part of its “Families First” agenda, it is basically a nod to the fact we previously had no statutory holiday during that long stretch of winter between New Year’s and Easter.
Valentine’s Day is also a shamelessly commercialized holiday. One need look no further than virtually every retail store in town where red and pink heart-shaped everything abounds.
On the other hand, we’ve never seen even a single Family Day-themed card or gift.
Valentine’s Day is also a highly criticized holiday. It’s too commerical, it’s too heteronormative, it creates too much pressure on attached people to spend money, it leaves single people feeling alienated and lonely.
If you dig hard enough, you can also find criticism of Family Day, but it’s mostly political sour grapes, or satire.
In one CBC comedy piece about Ontario’s Family Day, fictional people lament about being under pressure to spend the day with family.
“I’ll forgive (Premier Dalton) McGuinty for that power plant scandal if he renames Family Day to Leave Mommy the (expletive) Alone Day,” says one character named Kim.
This year, of course, all the potential pressure of the two holidays is either exacerbated or relieved by the COVID-19 pandemic, depending on an individual’s circumstances.
It is perhaps a good reminder that, despite what their origin or intention is, holidays are what we individually make of them.
Whatever your plans are, try not to get caught up in unrealistic holiday expectations and have a great long weekend.
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