Art by Addison Whiten
For most Americans, Feb. 14 conjures images of teddy bears, roses, chocolate and candy hearts. Internationally, however, the holiday does not always have the same importance as it does in the U.S.
“It’s not like a super big celebration,” said senior Arielle Leviste, an international student from the Philippines. “For me and my family, it’s just like a small get together. We don’t really make it as big of a deal.”
Leviste has worked in the mail room at Pepperdine since 2018, and said seeing the gifts people receive or the holiday reminds her of the way she and her classmates would celebrate when she was a child in Manila.
“I went to an all-girls school back home and across from us was an all-boys school, and you could see the guys from that school waiting outside our school gates during Valentine’s with flowers, food and all of that,” Leviste said.
While Leviste said Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated as much in the Philippines as it is in the U.S., she and her friends in school still found ways to commemorate the day with each other, like doing gift exchanges and making funny crafts.
“For example, I asked my friend and then I would print out her celebrity crush and put it on her desk before she came to school,” Leviste said.
Junior Alisha Harris spent the majority of her childhood in Indonesia, living abroad with her family. When she was very young, her family lived in a rural area of the country, where Harris said she and her family were the only people who celebrated Valentine’s Day.
“My mom would always make sure to make us feel loved on Valentine’s Day, but it was almost like a family holiday because absolutely nothing else was Valentine’s themed at all,” Harris said.
Harris and her family were familiar with the holiday and its usual traditions, but she said because none of her peers observed it, she couldn’t engage in any celebration outside of her family.
“It would be weird to be like, ‘Oh, I want to ask this boy to be my Valentine,’ because they would be like, ‘What is that?’” Harris said.
After moving to an urban area in Indonesia when she was older, Harris attended an international school. She said this is where she first got to celebrate Valentine’s Day with people her own age, outside of her family, as the school did all the typical things schools in the U.S. do for the holiday.
Attending the international school gave Harris her first chance to fully celebrate Valentine’s Day, but she said she spent one Feb. 14 as a second grader in the U.S. On that day, a boy asked her to be his Valentine, and she was so excited, until she learned what was customary in an American school.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is such a big deal! Someone asked to be my Valentine!’” Harris said. “Then I found out everybody in the class was writing cards to everybody in the class and I was like, ‘Is this even that special?’”
Now that she lives in the U.S., Leviste said she still feels the same about Valentine’s Day — she finds it cute, but doesn’t see it as a super important holiday.
“For me, personally, I guess it’s something like a birthday where you just celebrate that other person for that day,” Leviste said.
Harris, on the other hand, now lives in California, and fully celebrates the holiday. She said she gave her boyfriend a big gift basket this year to commemorate Valentine’s Day, and enjoys doing so.
“I like to go a little bit above and beyond now because it’s just sparkly and pink and it’s kind of fun, and I didn’t get that when I was a kid,” Harris said.
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