Hearts and flowers and candy. Lacey valentines decorated with ribbons and bows. Affectionate couples with stars in their eyes and their heads in the clouds. The romantic sentiments associated with Valentine's Day can stir hopes and dreams for some — and evoke dismay and an accentuated sense of aloneness in others. Love yet to be expressed, lost love, broken hearts and dashed expectations still exist even with cupid fluttering around like a dazed butterfly.
Ladies, if the romantic nuances of the day are enough to send you into hibernation with the shades pulled down, celebrate with the people of Finland. In Finland Feb. 14 is referred to as Ystävänpäivä — Friends Day, when well wishes and sentiments of love and devotion are abundant expressions of the celebration of friendship. Commemoration of friendship on this day pays homage to the love we feel for, and the value we place on the devotion expressed by, our friends. Robert Louis Stevenson aptly noted that a friend is a gift you give yourself. Since nurturing friendship is vital to making and keeping friends, here are three ways to strength those bonds while enjoying — (significant other or not) — Valentine's Day.
The fun of friendship: A girls day out
For women a carefree day spent with friends often involves shopping. Indeed the enthusiasm of a sisterhood of shoppers is contagious. Girlfriends of any age are motivated and enthusiastic to buy what we think will make us look better or feel younger. We try on, recommend, laugh, and rejoice over both the ridiculous and sublime. Vanity in action? Perhaps. Frivolous fun? Yes!
Even if no one spends a dime, the blithe errand of shopping or window shopping for clothing and accessories or home décor with adored friends lightens the mood. Whether we're navigating stressful day-to-day challenges or a feeling of aloneness, life becomes more pleasant when we engage in a bit of dreamy, girlish togetherness.
If shopping isn't your thing, there are plenty of other fun friend activities. See a movie. Eat out: fancy restaurant, downtown café, uptown gourmet. Take a road trip. Attend a concert. Engage in meaningful conversation. Do a craft together. Go to a spa and have a makeover. Paint your toenails. What sounds fun? Make plans. Start a tradition and invite those close to you as well as those you'd like to get to know and those who need a friend.
The power of friends united
Friends have the unique ability to support and empower one another to do the seemingly impossible. The power of friendship united — friends working together for a common cause — changes lives:
Hold a tribute dinner for a woman not yet recognized for her contributions.
Plan a birthday party for an elderly woman who has no family or prepare a special breakfast for someone who is a shut-in.
Organize a balloon launch in memory of a friend who has passed away.
Visit the children's ward of a hospital or an assisted living center and sing or play musical instruments for the patients; or make Valentine's Day cards that express friendship and caring for those who have no one to love them.
Make care packages for women and children in hospitals or homeless shelters.
Make a new friend
Often new friendships are discovered when you look at others with a fresh perspective. Consider the woman you've seen dozens of times at school or community functions, but never really talked to. You decide to take her a batch of cookies. It turns out she needs a friend as much as you do. The beautiful new neighbor you convinced yourself had a life of ease. When you chance to meet at the hospital, you find her life is difficult and complex. Both your child and her's have asthma; she becomes an ally and confidant.
This Valentine's Day, remember that romance isn't the only thing deserving of accolades of flowers and candy — your favorite old auntie, lonely next door neighbor, or new friend who just moved to town from across the country will appreciate you remembering them. Rethinking Feb. 14 can help you discover the magic the day can bring as you look for and celebrate the miracles of friendship.