Eleven unique ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day

I have a special gripe with Valentine’s Day: Everybody has to express their disgust with it. Believe me, I understand why so many people hate it. I used to be single, too, and for many it’s a painful reminder of a fruitless search for that “special someone.” It’s also an overblown Hallmark extravaganza (but then again, so is Mother’s and Father’s Day) that leads to a lot of mushy rom-coms and diamond ring commercials. But you know what, Christmas is commercial, too, and who doesn’t love Christmas? Scrooges, that’s who.

Okay, there are valid reasons for not liking Valentine’s Day. It can put a lot of pressure on couples to be perfect and extraordinarily romantic—like, of superhero proportions. But some couples prefer to simply crack open a bottle of wine and spend the evening watching their favorite movies.

I just want to enjoy my holiday in peace without having to hear people whine about it. That just spoils all the fun for those of us who like it. Valentine’s Day is about more than cards and chocolates and long-stemmed roses. It’s about taking the extra time to do something special for your sweetie (though you should be doing that all year round)—or the people you love. Elementary school taught us you can have more than one Valentine, after all.

So here are ten ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your better half—or your own wonderful self.

1. Read a book! Big surprise here, huh? There’s lots to choose from—from the romance section to young adult to holiday specials like Love Monster by Rachel Bright. Comics are always a good pick, too. I really enjoyed the NEW MUTANTS #37 Valentine’s Day special this year.

2. Learn about the history. Fact or fiction: People in France and England believed that February 14 was the beginning of mating season for birds, making the day a perfect one for romance? Take a quiz on Valentine’s Day traditions from around the world.

3. Write a love letter. The official National Card and Letter Writing Month isn’t until April, but some are starting the challenge early. February has been declared a month of letters. Not much of a writer? Send a free, classy digital card (much nicer than many e-cards, in my opinion) instead.

4. Play a video game. Twisted Metal (for PlayStation 3) is hitting retailers today, on Valentine’s Day. If you and your snuggle-poo like to play video games together, nothing says love quite like killer clowns and Rob Zombie. You can also get a four-game indie bundle of various PC titles for ridiculously cheap.

5. Make arts and crafts—they’re not just for kids, you know. Check out cool ideas at the Better Homes and Gardens website (like a case wrap for beer or caffeinated drinks, an “I Love You” library card and journal, and 34 other snazzy gifts). The Martha Stewart website has 48 other suggestions, like heart-shaped pot holders and lacy votive candle holders.

6. Concoct and bake your own super candy bar. Blogger Erica at Erica Takes Over the World will show you how.

7. Review ten of the greatest kisses in literature. Perfect for living vicariously.

8. Learn about the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia, which among other mementos features a smashed garden gnome that was hurled at a car during an angry breakup.

9. Watch twenty-five Valentine’s Day movies for twenty-five different relationship stages. This one made me giggle: “You love Nicolas Cage no matter what anyone says: Moonstruck.”

10. Cut costs with a romantic dinner at your favorite fast food chain, with restaurants like White Castle, Waffle House, Chick-fil-A, and more participating.

11. Take Valentine’s Day less seriously with these disgruntled quotes by famous comedians. Why not?