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Around this time of year, when Valentine’s Day is all the buzz and everyone is making date plans, it can be difficult not to feel left out of all the romantic gestures and special gifts.

However, you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to be able to celebrate the day. Friends and family can play a big part.

Emma Duehr, a college student, said she believes the lovey dovey holiday is stigmatized toward only people in relationships.

“You hear people make jokes if you’re not in a relationship, like ‘Oh, you don’t have a Valentine? How are you going to celebrate it? By yourself on the couch alone?’” she said.

Duehr’s family and friends play a significant role in the annual holiday for her.

“I enjoy celebrating it with my family,” she said. “Last year, my mom got my sister and me matching Alex and Ani bracelets, and my oldest sister usually sends me something from my nieces and nephews.”

She also recalled back in high school doing small gestures to share her love for her friends and how much they meant to her.

“I remember when I was little, kids would bring notes and candy to give to everyone, but I still continued doing that in high school,” Duehr said. “It was just a little reminder that I was grateful for their friendship.”

Now that Duehr is in college, she’s come to notice that she puts her relationship with her family first and doesn’t take them for granted as much as she might have when she was always at home.

“As you get older, you realize that your family is your best friend,” she said. “I’ve become closer with my mom now that I don’t get to see her everyday and have little arguments. Now, on holidays like Valentine’s Day, I make more of an effort to send her a card or call her just to talk.”

Julie Timmerman is on the opposite side of the coin.

She has a daughter who graduated from college two years ago, a son who just went off to college last fall and her youngest daughter is in her last year of high school.

“Valentine’s Day was a big day for them, especially when they were little,” she said. “They always got a card, some candy and a little stuffed animal. I also would make heart shaped sandwiches for their lunches, and that morning, I would make heart shaped pancakes. It was kind of corny, but they loved it.”

Even as the kids got older, elements of Valentine’s Day changed, but their traditions didn’t. While her oldest, Hannah, was away at college, she would send her a card and Betty Jane’s candy in the mail.

“Every year, they get a card,” Timmerman said. “That hasn’t changed, but now instead of a stuffed animal, they’ll get a gift card to Panchero’s or Charlotte’s. And we always had to get a heart-shaped Happy Joe’s pizza. The kids were adamant about it.”

When Timmerman taught first and second grade in Dubuque, they always hosted a friendship party at school, where the students would bring valentines and make a special craft for the day.

“They would get to take their craft home and give it to someone,” Timmerman said. “We always made it a big deal like it was super special. I also always made a handwritten valentine for each of the kids and wrote them a little message because, truly, Valentine’s Day isn’t all about having a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s all about friendship, making someone feel good and telling someone you appreciate them.”

Megan Amos, a therapist specializing in couples and family counseling at CrossRoads Counseling Center in Dubuque, shared that she believed some of her clients try to downplay or don’t celebrate occasions like Valentine’s Day out of the pressure and not wanting to feel ashamed or lonely.

“You don’t have to spend $500 on someone, but a card and an extra 10 minutes to spend with them in the morning goes a long way,” she said. “Things that we tend to push to the side we should put in a little extra effort on days like Valentine’s Day.”

Amos believes that no one has to be in a romantic relationship to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The alternate belief is a perspective brought about culturally, socially and through pop culture rom-coms.

But what it should be, according to Amos, is a day for everyone to recognize the people they have in their life and what they mean to them.

“It should be about celebrating all types of love,” she said. “Valentine’s Day is about recognizing all the different kinds of relationships you have in your life and taking the time to appreciate those relationships and what they bring.”

Maddie McCarron is a freelance writer from Dubuque for former Telegraph Herald intern.

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