For many people, Valentine’s Day is written off as a ‘Hallmark holiday’; an excuse for restaurants and florists to jack up their prices. Or to make you buy something that simply isn’t required for a healthy relationship.
But for others, 14 February is a special day and one that is still worth celebrating…
Kate Ray: “We love it,” says Kate. “I’ve already spent weeks online searching for my card and it arrived from Etsy yesterday – it’s perfect and I will be pouring my heart out inside it.”
She says she is “naturally drawn to gratitude” and views Valentine’s Day as an opportunity for her and her husband, Tony, to show each other “in tokens and words what we already know after 31 years together.”
They don’t always go out for dinner, but always fill the whole day with romantic gestures, such as love texts, watching a good film and having a takeaway on the sofa together.
“We thank our stars that we struck it so lucky – turn another corner and we never would have met,” Kate says. “About 10 years ago, we were stopped in the street by a local reporter and asked about Valentine’s Day and they put us in the local paper!”
Amanda Craig: The author and journalist says she and her husband always make an effort on Valentine’s Day.
“We never celebrate our wedding anniversary because we got together long before that, so it seems idiotic,” she says.
But her belief that “love moves mountains” inspires their annual Valentine’s Day rituals: “Although we hate going to a restaurant for it, we get a really nice bottle of wine and tend to make borscht and a pink-themed pudding, usually a strawberry and raspberry fool, as well as flowers.”
Claire Feasey: Claire’s husband Michael died of cancer in 2022, but she is still a passionate advocate for celebrating Valentine’s Day.
“We just enjoyed any excuse to celebrate the love,” she recalls. “A card, a meal, wine, a snog on the sofa – what’s not to like? We never went out, though, have you seen what restaurants charge on 14 February?!
“In the early days, he’d buy me fancy gifts, such as a custom fragrance one year. And as the years went on, that turned into chocolates and framed photos of the dogs!”
Ellie Martinez: Valentine’s Day is important to Ellie and her partner Katya, even if they will have to celebrate discreetly this year. They are living in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal, so there will be no public displays of affection, but Ellie says she has always preferred Valentine’s Day at home.
“My birthday is two days beforehand, so inevitably, there will have been a recent big night,” she explains. “I love to cook, so I tend to plan a special night at home.”
Ellie says that this year will be “low key”, especially as the couple have theatre commitments this month, along with her birthday and plans for their wedding and an international move.
“Next year, we will be going to the most expensive, mushiest restaurant I can find. We’ll finally be in a country where our relationship is legal and we won’t have to worry about people wondering why two women are out together on Valentine’s Day,” she says.
Rania Farquhar: After meeting in an Irish bar in Abu Dhabi 16 years ago, Rania and her husband Andrew had a romance worthy of a rom-com. After a five-week “dating whirlwind”, Andrew thought they’d be better as friends while he sorted his life out after a break-up.
After seven months in the ‘friend zone’, during which time they communicated every day, he told Rania that his lease was nearly up and he might move to Dubai, an hour away. She suggested he move in with her “just as flatmates” and he said he’d think about it. With Valentine’s Day approaching, Andrew mentioned he might go to a singles’ event in Dubai.
“I was disappointed, but remained strong – I had a few fabulous ‘galentine’s days’ with girlfriends in the past, but I didn’t know as many people in Abu Dhabi,” she recalls. “I decided to organise a non-Valentine’s dinner with some friends at a casual Chinese restaurant with bench seats to avoid standing out in a sea of couples, when Andrew rang that day to see what I was up to.”
He’d decided not to go to the singles’ event and Rania invited him to the Chinese restaurant: “It turns out this was the best thing I could possibly have done to make him suddenly jealous of the tennis guys and realise he really does care for me as more than just a friend.”
Andrew turned up with “a large soppy Valentine’s card and a huge bunch of red roses and my poor friends made it through the rather awkward ensuing meal.
“We get back to my flat, my now-husband says actually he does want to move in, but not as flatmates, only if we are together,” Rania recalls. “Less than a month later, he proposed. A year later, we had a commitment ceremony, and four years later, on Valentine’s Day, we were finally legally wed.”
February 14 has been a special day ever since and this year, Rania and Andrew will be celebrating 10 years of marriage: “An engraved Tiffany necklace for me, a fancy bathroom bag for him and we might go to the movies to see Argyle!”