Happy Valentine’s Day! This is a day dedicated to love, relationships and chocolate.
It’s been around a long time. In the 1300s, February 14 began to be associated with love and romance; and the first written Valentine’s greetings appeared in the 15th century. The first mass-produced cards emerged in the 1840s, and in 1916, Hall Brothers – which would become Hallmark cards – started mass printing them.
It’s forecast that Americans alone will spend US$19.6 billion for Valentine’s Day this year, up from US$18.2 billion last year. According to Hallmark, around 144 million V-Day cards are exchanged each year; other statistics suggest as many as 180 million. Tens of millions of kilos of chocolate will be bought, given and eaten.
Even if you’re in a relationship, it’s easy to be cynical about February 14. Some people even refer to it as “Hallmark Day”, as in the card company, because greeting card companies do so well at this time of year.
Instead of dwelling on the commercial aspect, or getting annoyed by loved-up couples, use today to think about the wider meaning of love, and to how you can share it.
They may get on your case about your grades/messy bedroom/addiction to Snapchat, but it comes from a good place. Cut your folks a little slack, and give them a night off this week: make dinner, do the dishes, and go to bed early without being nagged.
Maybe your parents always take their side, or maybe you know that it was definitely them that borrowed your Nintendo Switch and left it at the mall. Whatever your relationship, siblings can be a pain. But they’re also your siblings, and that’s a relationship to be treasured. Make like Michelle Obama: go high, whatever they’re like, and plan a parent-free sibling outing or treat to make fond memories for the next time you want to strangle them.
In Hong Kong, it’s rare for people to know their neighbours, let alone exchange even a brief “josaan” when you bump into each other in the hallway. Be the one to break the mould: bake or buy a batch of cookies or brownies, and deliver a portion to everyone on your floor. Introduce yourself, and make a mental promise to make a bigger effort to have a proper chat every time you see them.
If you have a pet, make a pledge today to do something extra special. Take your pup on a walk somewhere you haven’t been before; make your kitty a new toy (feathers on a string is always popular); or, if their personalities are so inclined, give them an ultra luxurious brush through. If you don’t have a furry friend of your own, sign up to volunteer regularly at an animal shelter (like Lifelong Animal Protection, Hong Kong Dog Rescue, HK Stop, Kirsten’s Zoo, SPCA … there are many in the city!) for regular warm fuzzies.
If your grandparents are still around, and live in Hong Kong, this is a no-brainer: plan a special day, just you and them. Make sure you tailor it to their energy level: don’t go hiking for six hours if they spend any time in a wheelchair! If your grandparents aren’t around, sign up to volunteer at a home for the elderly. Some of the residents don’t have family, and if you can visit regularly to chat to them, go for walks, or even do their shopping, you’ll make a huge difference to their lives.
All this love for people isn’t much use if we ruin the planet. Take some time today to assess how you damage the Earth, and how you could change that. Pledge to cut down on plastic (start by refusing to use straws), remember to switch off lights, screens, and air cons (or heaters!), take shorter showers … there are so many things you can do that won’t actually affect you on a daily basis, but will help to make a massive difference.
Self-care is a massive buzzword this year, and for good reason – we need to take care of our minds and bodies so we can be the best versions of ourselves possible. This doesn’t mean always thinking only of your own needs, or putting yourself before others. It just means making time to do the things that make you happy; eating healthily; getting some exercise; aiming for at least eight hours’ sleep every night; and surrounding yourself with people who make you want to be a better person.