Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and with it, all the good (and bad) that has become associated with the extensive commercialization of love and romance being celebrated. In fact, more people seem to dread Valentine’s Day, viewing it as an annoying obligation rather than a genuine celebration of love.
Of course, that’s a rather bleak view of what is supposed to be a day dedicated to honoring your romantic partner. We’ve already talked about how it’s actually worth celebrating Valentine’s Day and how it can turn into an event you look forward to instead of dreading with the right approach.
But it’s perfectly understandable if a time period of less than a week cannot flip your worldview on the subject. Especially if you’re single, and it feels like every single ad and promo campaign celebrating Valentine’s Day is screaming at your that you’re missing out on the “most crucial thing in life”: romantic love.
And see, that’s where most of the world has gone wrong. Love is great, but it comes in many shapes and forms, and all of its forms are great, not just romantic love. And while Valentine’s Day has been pushed as the most crucial holiday celebrating love, in the recent decade, there’s been a pushback from those who are single and happy, not looking for a partnership, and feeling like they deserve to celebrate love in their life anyway: Galentine’s Day.
What is Galentine’s Day, and When is it Celebrated?
Galentine’s Day is a sort of foil for Valentine’s Day. While Valentine’s Day celebrates romantic love, Galentine’s Day is dedicated to commemorating platonic love. Namely platonic love between women. Hence the portmanteau name: “gal” (a friendly, informal, shortened version of “girl) + “entine” (from Valentine’s).
Galentine’s Day is dedicated to celebrating all the platonic bonds women share: friendships first and foremost, but also bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters, etc. It’s a day for women to meet up, spend quality time together, exchange gifts, plan fun activities, share a special meal (often brunch, for certain specific reasons we’ll talk about below), and generally acknowledge and honor each other, showing appreciation for the special place they hold in each others’ lives.
So, in other words, do everything a couple is supposed to do on Valentine’s Day, but do so in a platonic manner with no romantic implications.
Galentine’s Day is, in a rather on-the-nose manner, celebrated on February 13th.
Who Even Invented Galentine’s Day?
Here’s a funny story: Galentine’s Day is an entirely fictional holiday. In another clear demonstration that popular culture and media shape our lives, what is now the most famous holiday celebrating friendship became a thing due to a sitcom.
Have you heard of “Parks and Recreations”? It’s a mockumentary-style political satire created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (i.e., the creators of the little show called “The Office,” the most-watched sitcom of the 00s after FRIENDS).
On February 11th, 2010, the show aired an episode named “Galentine’s Day.” The plot of the episode kicks off with the main character of “Parks and Recreations,” Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler), planning her annual “Galentine’s Day brunch.”
“It’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends 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.” © Leslie Knope
And while the plot of the episode only tangentially touched upon the holiday and didn’t revolve around it (in fact, somewhat ironically, it revolved around Valentine’s Day), the idea of allocating a special day to celebrating platonic bonds resonated with a lot of women.
Notably, Galentine’s Day wasn’t positioned as a foil for Valentine’s Day in the show itself. While Leslie clearly favors it over the romantic holiday (calling it “the best day of the year”), she has nothing against love, romance, and celebrating them. She even mentions that she and her girlfriends celebrate the day whether they’re single, dating, or married.
In other words, Galentine’s Day is not a “single women’s holiday.” It’s for all women, whether single or hitched.
But it did become trendy among women who had become tired of Valentine’s Day for one reason or another. When Valentine’s Day had become rote and pressuring, Galentine’s Day seemed like a fun reason to plan an extra get-together with friends, with no expectations and obligations. Well, maybe aside from the challenge of planning your schedule in a way to keep February 13th free.
[*] Lilith Fair was a concert tour and traveling music festival founded by Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan in 1997. It consisted solely of female solo artists and female-led bands.
Who is Galentine’s Day For?
It does seem like Galentine’s Day is for women, and it is. It is primarily for women who share platonic bonds of friendship, motherhood, and sisterhood with each other.
But the more time passes and Galentine’s Day transitions from a niche into a mainstream holiday, the more people incorporate it into their lives.
There’s no arguing that nowadays, it has turned into the most significant holiday dedicated to celebrating friendships and platonic love, even if it’s not the first. So from year to year, more and more people celebrate Galentine’s Day, including men and non-binary folks.
And why not? In the end, it’s about celebrating platonic love. But the onus of focus is supposed to be on women and the bonds they share. It was, after all, invented for this specific purpose, even if the inventor was a fictional character.
Can Men Celebrate Galentine’s Day, or is it for Women Only?
It’s a bit of a trap question, something akin to “can men be feminists?” You’re just begging to open up a hornet’s nest. There will always be loud voices screaming that feminism is women-only, and there will always be loud voices screaming that Galentine’s Day is for women only.
Luckily, those voices are a minority.
In the end, Galentine’s Day is about platonic love and the bonds we share with women in our lives. And while Hollywood often skips out on portraying those bonds, plenty of men share friendships with women and non-binary people, have close bonds with their sisters, and honor their mothers.
And Galentine’s Day is an excellent opportunity for men to remind the women they love platonically that they love them. The question is, why shouldn’t men celebrate Galentine’s Day? Especially if women in their lives want them to participate in the fun and have a special brunch together.
(Besides, hardly any woman will say no to getting an extra box of gourmet chocolate truffles as a gift, whatever the reason may be).
Is There a Similar Holiday to Celebrate Male Friendship?
Actually, yes, there is! Though not as widely known and celebrated as Galentine’s Day.
It’s called “Broentine’s Day” (or, sometimes, “Mantique Day”) and is, incidentally, celebrated on February 13th, as well.
Unlike Galentine’s Day, we don’t know where the term Broentine Day originated or who started the trend. But the name of the latter itself is clearly the reference to the former, using the same principle of creating the portmanteau: “bro” (slang term of endearment between male friends that is primarily used in a positive, often playful or humorous way) + “entine” (from Valentine’s).
Where the term “Mantique” comes from is even less clear. One theory assumes that it’s another portmanteau, blending “man” with “antique” (though no one can pinpoint the origins of the colloquialism), while another claims that the term “Mantique” is entirely original and is supposed to describe activities that are considered masculine or that are unique and of particular interest to men.
Considering the similarities, it would be fair to assume that at least the term “Broentine’s Day” was primarily inspired by Galentine’s Day, with the men seeking to emulate the practice of uplifting meaningful platonic relationships with other men in their lives.
While not nearly as well-known or often practiced as Galentine’s Day, it seems that Broentine’s Day has curved out a little niche space for itself that isn’t going anywhere. We would consider that a good thing by all means: men are often discouraged from overtly expressing platonic love, especially toward people they’re not related to by blood. Establishing a practice of celebrating male friendships in a wholesome way seems like a positive thing.
What are Customary Galentine’s Day Gifts for Women You Only Hold Platonic Love For?
Unlike Valentine’s Day chocolates, heart-shaped cards, and red roses, there are no customary gifts specifically associated with Galentine’s Day. Savvy entrepreneurs have been working hard for the last decade, putting out merch specifically for the holiday. These days, you can easily find wine glasses and coffee mugs, scented candles, cards, and even entire gift baskets specifically designed for the holiday.
But creating strong associations takes time. Valentine’s Day chocolates have been around since 1868. The entire concept of Galentine’s Day isn’t even old enough to go to high school yet.
That said, a decade is enough time to establish specific trends, especially when companies know the target audience. In this case, women of all ages.
Typical Galentine’s Day gifts include:
- Sweets, particularly chocolate truffles and bonbons;
- Tableware, mainly mugs or glasses (likely to denote something that brings pleasure to the recipient, ex., drinking coffee, instead of something solely practical);
- Cosmetics, particularly of a decorative kind (though skincare gift boxes aren’t all that rare);
- Gift cards.
If you feel like a lot of these gift ideas are taken from Valentine’s Day traditions - then you’re absolutely right! With the holidays being this close and Galentine’s Day being perceived as somewhat of a foil for the former, many of the presents women choose for each other are already readily available due to Valentine’s overwhelming popularity.
(Except for the gift cards. Gift cards are widely considered to be an unromantic present and are looked down upon as Valentine’s Day present. Unwarranted, but still. On the other hand, girlfriends have no such hindrance; they can easily go with a gift card as a present for each other.)
Other Holidays Celebrating Friendship:
It must be mentioned that Galentine’s Day is not the first holiday to be celebrating platonic love or at least friendship.
The oldest of them is likely Friendship Day, which is typically celebrated on the first Sunday of August (this year, it’ll fall on August 6th) in a number of countries, most notably India (the list includes several countries in South America, some countries in Africa, and some countries in Asia), though it’s not particularly well-known or widely celebrated.
There’s also World Friendship Day, sometimes referred to as International Friendship Day, which is probably the only “officially recognized” holiday on the list (with certain governmental bodies and establishments in a few countries even treating it like a day off). World Friendship Day was by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011. It falls on July 30th. According to the United Nations, World Friendship Day aims to promote peace, understanding, and cooperation between individuals and communities. The day is supposed to highlight the importance of friendship and the role it plays in building a better world, encouraging people to celebrate together and strengthening their bonds.
In the US, we even have a National Best Friend Day, though, unlike the previous holiday, it’s unofficial and not recognized as a holiday by the United States government or any other major organization. It’s probably the least well-known and the least organized entry on this list, with various people celebrating it on various different dates. But the most common option seems to be June 8th.