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Valentine’s Day vs. Family Day: Which dumb holiday is better?

Some holidays and special days are time-honoured traditions. Some have a purpose that reach back through centuries of human history. Others are, well, useless — or at least have become so.

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By Julianne Huff (Contributor) – Email

Illustration by Danielle Collins

Some holidays and special days are time-honoured traditions. Some have a purpose that reach back through centuries of human history. Others are, well, useless — or at least have become so. In February, we have two of these, only one of which we actually get a day off for.

There’s the oh-so-important February 14, the dreaded Valentine’s Day. If you’re in a relationship, you better have a present and something planned. If you’re single, this is supposedly the day that will cement you as just that.

But if you look at the beginnings and original traditions of Valentine’s Day, it’s actually quite romantic and sweet. According to a BBC article, Valentine’s Day arose as a tradition in ancient Rome when people were not allowed to marry, as it was banned by Emperor Claudius II. He seemed to believe that married men made bad soldiers — whatever that’s supposed to mean. There are many stories, but essentially there was a priest named Valentine who felt this was unfair and married couples in secret. He was put in jail, where he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Before he was killed on February 14, he sent a letter to his love signed, “From your Valentine.”

A pretty story, right? While some people fall for the commercialism of the day today, others have kept the simplicity and romantic side of the holiday. It’s a day that essentially celebrates something you should be celebrating every day: the relationship you have with the person you love.

Then there’s Family Day. Sure, I get it; it’s a great idea for people to bring everything back to the family, to have a day off to do something with them. But here’s the real question: how many people actually do something with their family on this day?

Family Day is not a national statutory holiday, being observed in only Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. The holiday was first observed in Alberta, and BC is the most recent to join the other provinces. But let’s consider the fact that for some reason BC is not included in the “family” that is Canadian Family Day. Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan all share the same day, but BC has Family Day one week earlier. So, BC is more like the forgotten uncle of provinces.

Of course, we know why this became a holiday — it’s so that we could have a day off in February! Don’t get me wrong, I love having the day off. But I didn’t even really see my family on this day. So I can appreciate the appeal, but has it gotten so bad that we specifically need a day off to hang out with our family?

So, which one is better: the one with a nice story and long-standing tradition, or the day off? [Editor’s Note: And it wasn’t even an extra day off — it got grouped in with reading week!!] Like these days, the answer doesn’t really matter. For now, I’ll stick with the discounted chocolates of February 15.

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