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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Valentine’s Day builds valuable relationships, and not just romantic ones

Angela Tan
Writing a Valentine’s Day letter of appreciation in Chinese class was a heartwarming experience.

As someone who’s not in a relationship, I often feel pressured around Valentine’s Day to get a romantic partner, go on a cute date and then rave to my friends about it. On several occasions, I’ve been tempted to send a candy gram to someone just to stir up some romance for myself before Valentine’s Day. 

However, a wholesome experience in my sophomore year Chinese class showed me that it’s completely valid to spend the holiday platonically with people you value, whether that means friends, family, teachers or classmates. The love that is celebrated on Valentine’s Day isn’t limited to people who are dating or married — it’s for everyone.

On a chilly Friday a year ago, the magic of an approaching Valentine’s Day captivated my Chinese teacher, Ms. Chang. I remember groggily walking into my 2nd period classroom and being immediately bombarded by vivid sheets of cherry-red paper, a bowl of pink-and-gold chocolate kisses and my teacher’s beaming smile. 

“Class, we are going to write love letters today!” she said.

Multiple stressed-out junior and senior students unanimously groaned: 

“Laoshi [teacher], this is a terrible idea.” 

“I don’t like anybody.”

“I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day!”

My teacher laughed and passed out the dazzling red sheets and accompanying scissors, saying, “If you don’t want to confess your love, you can write a letter of appreciation to a classmate, a friend or me!” 

Although I was half-asleep and didn’t feel like writing about my feelings, I sketched a lopsided heart, cut it out and scribbled a few sentences in Chinese that expressed appreciation for my friend across the classroom. As I decorated the card with daisies and hearts, familiar memories flooded my mind, reminding me how much I cherished our friendship.

When my friend and I exchanged our letters, we giggled over memories of how we first met in freshman year, both new to the district and extremely shy. We gasped when we realized our cards both mentioned how grateful we were to each other for sharing our snacks. 

Meanwhile, many of my classmates were struggling to use Google Translate to convey their feelings onto red hearts. With the extra time, I tore my scraps of red paper into rectangles and began folding miniature paper boats, which was my usual hobby during boring lectures.

Fold in half, fold two triangles, turn up edges, pop it open, fold up corners, open it up — I repeated this process multiple times until my desk partner leaned over, curious as to what I was doing.

For the rest of the period, I meticulously taught him the steps that I had learned since I was a kid. My classmate, a first-time boat crafter, folded a boat that was a bit squashed and nearly capsized, but I was proud to have taught someone my silly pastime. In 15 minutes, we had made a whole fleet of cute red boats and set them on the desk to admire.

Soon, the bell rang and students shuffled out with red heart cards stuffed in their backpacks or gifted to the teacher, all of which were received with a grateful hug. Her eyes glittered with affection for us as we walked out with chocolate kisses placed in our hands. My handmade red paper boats floated inside my jacket pocket, eagerly waiting to become gifts for my friends.

That day I didn’t have a stereotypical Valentine’s Day experience like receiving roses, going on a dinner date or getting a lavish surprise. However, my atypical experience that day — which included reaffirming friendships, making memories with classmates and spending time with my teacher — assured me that I don’t need a romantic partner to enjoy Valentine’s Day. After all, a holiday of love means you can show affection and gratitude toward anybody valuable in your life. 

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