Valentine’s Day inspires a lot of negative opinions; there's even a movie called I Hate Valentine’s Day. Thus, back in 2010, Parks and Recreation created Galentine’s Day, which takes place the day before Valentine’s Day, on the more-anodyne February 13. In the NBC show, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) conceives Galentine’s as a day to celebrate the love you have for your “gals,” aka your friends.
“Valentine’s Day is about romance, but February 13, Galentine’s Day, is about celebrating lady friends!” Leslie says in the landmark season 2 episode. In Leslie’s vision, she gathers her friends (the women of the show) and lavishes them with gifts like massage gift cards and pillows emblazoned with their own faces. The “Galentine’s Day” episode established an annual tradition, and Leslie celebrated the holiday throughout the rest of the series. As codified on Parks, the holiday wasn't restricted to single women — there's a reason it falls before Valentine's Day and not on the day itself — but the day has become a healthy alternative to the chocolate-filled holiday for couples.
And the concept quickly spread beyond Parks' fictional universe of Pawnee, Indiana. (There isn’t yet a movie called Galentine’s Day, but, hey, free pitch for you!) BumbleBFF, a spinoff of the dating app Bumble for people to make friends, hosts public events on the date throughout the country. Madewell, J. Crew’s cool younger sister, has a Galentine’s Day pop-up shop. The female-led gaming company Fort Mason Games recently performed a survey in honour of Galentine’s Day. Companies love G-day, evidently, which makes the holiday seem just as insincere as V-day. Many women, though, tend to feel less cynical about it.
Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, argues that the holiday is a welcome relief from Valentine’s Day.
“The more general oohing and ahhing over romantic couples that happens around Valentine’s Day can also feel oppressive or just wearying to single people,” says DePaulo. “It is part of the pervasive, year-round matri-maniacal messaging that insists that marriage and weddings and couples are awesome and everyone else is pathetic in comparison.”
Galentine’s Day, by comparison, has a more expansive take on love. Says DePaulo, “Galentine’s Day is one example of a way of saying that love has a great big heart. It opens its arms to all sorts of people who matter to us, such as our cherished friends and our special relatives.”
Another single woman, Cristina Angeles, the Founding Artistic Director of Checkmark, a theatre company, loves the holiday so much so that Checkmark is hosting a Galentine’s Day fundraiser. “Galentine’s Day is about supporting, uplifting and loving the women in your life,” says Angeles. "[It] acts as a pseudo-holiday to celebrate the women closest to you. Nowadays, in our 20s, rounding up the friend group and finding a date you’re all free can be pretty difficult."
Krista White, a creative freelancer, is also in favour. Says White, “I think Galentine’s Day is an awesome way to elevate friendship to its rightful spot! I’ve been single forever and shifting the focus of the holiday to platonic and self-love reminds me that my relationship status doesn’t determine my work.”
Kate Bolick, the author of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own, didn’t even know the holiday was a thing until recently. “I didn't even know what Galentine's Day was until several years ago, when a friend began inviting me to her annual Galentine's party. I definitely loved it,” Bolick says, adding, “I like the unique energy of an all-female party.”
If Valentine’s Day is an exclusive invite, then Galentine’s Day is an all-access pass, a day that won’t shame you and certainly won’t kick you out of the club. It’s also not the first of its kind.
Before Galentine’s Day, there was International Quirkyalone Day, a holiday that landed on February 14 itself. Clearly, we've needed something to combat the oppressive romance imperative — that we must be coupled, or else — for a long time.
Says DePaulo, “Any celebration that recognises the significance of friendships or other important relationships other than romantic ones has the potential to be a good thing, and not just for single women. We all need to value people beyond those we are (supposedly) having sex with.”
The good news, though, is that Valentine’s Day is fading. A 2019 report from the National Retail Federation suggested that fewer people are celebrating Valentine's Day — only 51% of Americans reported that they planned to ring in the holiday. Those who are celebrating are spending more for than usual, which suggests that Valentine's Day, the one with the chocolates and the lingerie, may be increasingly for couples with disposable income.
In short, there's nothing wrong with Galentine's Day, although there have been murmurings of an anti-Galentine's Day uprising. An 2018 article from HelloGiggles posits, "if you hate packaged expressions of love for any of the people in your life, it makes sense to hate Galentine’s Day." Perhaps any enforced holiday about love will always feel slightly barbaric and cloying. But what makes Galentine's Day different is that it isn't enforced. Well, maybe when Leslie Knope celebrates, it is.