Gather all of your gal pals, warm up the waffle-maker and mark your calendars for Galentine's Day on February 13. In a season that's so focused on romantic love, those who don't have someone to cuddle with on the big 1-4 might feel a little forlorn at the constant reminders of their singlehood. That's where this most joyful holiday comes into play. Whether you're gleefully single, happily coupled or somewhere in between, taking a day to recognize the importance of friendship can only help strengthen some of the most important relationships in our lives.
As the goddess Bette Midler sings, you gotta have friends — and there's science behind the sentiment. According to the Mayo Clinic, not only do strong friendships provide a sense of belonging and purpose, improve our self-confidence, lower stress and help us cope with trauma and life challenges, there are physical benefits too. A strong social network may also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, decrease depression and even help us live longer lives.
When it comes to friendship, the quality of your relationships matters more than how many people you've got in your contact list. According to research from Psychology and Aging, older adults tend to be more selective in their friendships, but also reported that their smaller circles held more meaningful connections. Those who put time and energy into really cultivating a few deep bonds said they were happier and more satisfied, overall. One of the best ways of doing that? Events like Galentine's Day that let the crew bask in each other's light, even if this year's celebration has to take place from afar. So what is Galentine's Day, exactly? Here's the full breakdown.
Why is it called Galentine's Day, and who started it?
We have Amy Poehler's Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope to thank for Galentine's Day. She debuted the holiday in a 2010 episode to celebrate her own female friends on Feb. 13, otherwise known as Valentine's Day eve. As Leslie put it:
“Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
In that episode, Leslie showers her friends Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones), Donna Meagle (Retta), April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza), Leslie's mom Marlene Griggs-Knope (Pamela Reed) and several others with gifts like handmade mosaics of their faces, crocheted flower pens and 5,000-word essays on why she loves them so much. They drink mimosas and, because this is Leslie we're talking about, eat breakfast food while the hostess goes totally over-the-top with her expressions of love.
What's the best way to celebrate Galentine's Day?
Let me get real here for a second: I'd never watched Parks and Recreation until I marathoned it for the first time last March. So it wasn't until recently that I understood why people go all in for the show. But once I did, I immediately saw my own friendships (not to mention my former county government workplace) onscreen. And Galentine's Day is no exception. But even I can admit Leslie's execution goes a little too far for anyone's comfort, viewer included. If you decide to celebrate Galentine's Day yourself, feel free to dial it back a notch or 10.
Brunch is traditional, in the sense that a holiday started by a fictional character can have traditions, because Leslie loves breakfast food almost as much as she loves her besties. But this year especially, some of us might have to get a little creative. Think a rom-com movie night via video chat with face masks and DIY mani-pedis, a friends-only socially distanced outing, or even making desserts together from afar. If you've never watched a sappy movie from your respective couches with your best buds on the phone, you've got to try it. Just don't forget the sugary snacks.
You can also send out Galentine's Day cards, share a Galentine's Day quote, or buy your friend a cute Galentine's Day gift. The only rule is that you spend your Galentine's Day celebrating each other, no significant others allowed.
So, is Galentine's Day a national holiday?
It would be excellent if it was, but sorry — Galentine's Day isn't a national holiday any more than Valentine's Day is. But according to research by lingerie brand Boux Avenue, searches for Galentine's Day have increased 400% since 2015, while Valentine's Day has decreased by 55%. So, take from that what you will.
If you're not the DIY type, you no longer have to subject your friends to your tragic craft attempts. Major retailers like Target and Walmart stock Galentine's Day merch, and a whole slew of independent stores do, too. Cynically, that's probably a move to hook customers who have cooled on the idea of buying for Valentine's Day. A 2019 report from the National Retail Federation suggested that fewer people shell out for Valentine's Day — only 51% of Americans reported that they planned to recognize it last year. But hey, when the shoppies hit, you could do worse than buying your best pal something sweet.
Who can celebrate?
Probably the biggest argument against Galentine's Day is that it's exclusionary, and that makes sense. Lots of us don't have a whole #squad of gal pals living nearby, or prefer to kick it with people of all genders. And to that, we say to heck with the idea that Galentine's is just for ladies. It's all about sharing your affection for the people you're not romantically partnered with and love knows no genders. Your Galentine's fete can include women, men, trans and nonbinary folks, or anyone you consider a cherished friend. Just so long as they like waffles.
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