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Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

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Remember when you were a teenager and Valentine’s Day was a nightmare because your secret crush did not realize he was supposed to do a grand romantic gesture for you, his faithful stalker? Well, it’s that time of the year again. Except that this year there’s a twist — at least for Christians. For the first time since 1945, Valentine’s Day falls on the same day as Ash Wednesday.

For Christians, this may bring some confusion since it’s the start of Lent; they will receive the ashes and abstain from eating meat and fasting while also celebrating consumer driven Valentine’s Day. Talk about bad timing.

Religious Christians will not be the only ones celebrating Valentine’s Day in a unique way. Throughout the world, it is celebrated (or hated) for different reasons. In Finland, this day, also called “Ystävänpäivä,” is meant to celebrate not only love but friendship. “Friends Day” is supposed to be all about giving cards to your friends and letting them know that after 364 days of not keeping in touch, you are still alive. Think of the card as a shout out to your friends letting them know that you survived the winter.

[alert type=red ]The main difference between celebrating a “friendship day” in Finland and in Mexico is perhaps that in Mexico friendship day is every day. [/alert]

In Mexico, February 14th is called “the day of love and friendship,” and kids will usually exchange candies and small gifts with their friends. However, as I grew older I understood a crucial element: it wasn’t about friendship at all unless you did not have a Valentine who would give you balloons, chocolates and flowers.

In high school, there were only two options: either you had a boyfriend and then celebrated in an over the top Hollywood style so that the whole school knew about your relationship, or you did not have one and then decorated cards for your closest friends wishing yours would be the prettiest. The “friendship” part of the celebration seemed to be there only to help single people not feel miserable.

The main difference between celebrating a “friendship day” in Finland and in Mexico is perhaps that in Mexico friendship day is every day. It is common to hug, give presents, write constantly, and appear uninvited at the house of your friends. Here though, having a special day to show appreciation might come in handy.

So even if you hate Valentine’s Day and you refuse to fall into the trap of consumerism, it might be nice to acknowledge the girl who listens to your ramblings and complaints about the trivial matters of life, or the guy who holds you so that you don’t slip in the snow. Regardless how you choose to celebrate it, remember not to overdo it because this is still Finland and Ystävänpäivä is not meant to be considered as a synonym of excessive public affection day.

Picture on the cover: Robbie Sproule

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