We all may be individualists in the modern world but rituals such as Valentine’s Day are still crucial:
Why do we celebrate a holiday dedicated to love?
Let’s start with the idea of rituals. We tend to think that only backward or primitive societies have rituals — people running in circles with painted bodies, drums, and fires. The field of cultural sociology has emerged in the last couple of decades, and one of its premises is that there is a strong continuity between early and modern societies. Rituals continue to be central to us, and are perhaps even more important as societies become larger and more heterogeneous.
Valentine’s Day is a ritual. It’s not as if people wake up and think, “Today’s a good day to celebrate love.” It occurs on the same day each year, and it’s a way to liven up a dark winter.
It’s interesting that we think of Valentine’s Day as something for a couple, because it’s also something that the whole society celebrates. Millions of couples are doing this at the same time. It’s a way for society to say that romantic love is good and coupling is important.
Whether you want to celebrate the appointed holiday or not, our society marks them as important events with evidence visible everywhere from television commercials to grocery stores to activities in public schools. They are not just markers in time – we have to have some sort of holiday in the middle of February – but rather days for society to reassert its priorities and modes of celebration.