Four years ago Sarah Von Bargen was single and living alone. When Valentine’s Day came around, she didn’t dwell on being dateless — she got her girlfriends together.
Von Bargen’s annual “Galentine’s Day” party was born, a girls-only gathering complete with cupcakes topped with photos of famous best friends: Oprah and Gayle, Tina and Amy, Lucy and Ethel.
“Valentine’s Day is sort of an emotional minefield,” said Von Bargen, 37, of Minneapolis, who is now married. “Galentine’s Day is a day to celebrate your girlfriends. You can throw your own party and it’s not weird.”
To combat the pressure that Feb. 14 can put on romantic relationships, ladies around the world — single or not — are reserving Feb. 13 as a day to honor their besties. They are leaving their husbands at home, kissing their boyfriends goodbye and taking their single selves out for a girl-powered party.
The unofficial holiday has grown in popularity, with major retailers such as Target, Nordstrom and Ulta Beauty hawking Galentine products, and lifestyle bloggers schooling women on how to throw the perfect Galentine’s brunch.
Valentine’s Day spending on crushes, spouses and family members is expected to be down 7 percent from a year ago, and half of Americans won’t even celebrate the holiday this year. But gift-buying for friends is at an all-time high, according to the National Retail Federation.
In addition to exchanging presents, friends are getting together, treating the new holiday as a feminist show of solidarity.
“Galentine’s Day is more important than ever,” said Kylee Leonetti, founder of Girl Creative, a monthly meetup designed to inspire creative women in the Twin Cities.
Leonetti is hosting a Galentine’s Day event at a local Mexican restaurant to “celebrate friendship and the power of women supporting women.”
While Leonetti says political beliefs of attendees are mixed, the need for friends is universal.
“I don’t know how everyone who comes to our events voted or feels, but I do know that Girl Creative is a safe space for women to process their feelings,” she said. “Sometimes you just really need a friend.”
The rise of Galentine’s Day
So how did Galentine’s Day come to be? In the 22nd episode of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, defined Galentine’s Day as: “Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst.”
After Knope initiated Galentine’s Day as an unofficial holiday over a waffle brunch, popular culture soon took hold of it.
Aside from going to dinner and spending quality time together, Kaila Fiske said she and her boyfriend don’t buy elaborate gifts for each other. The 25-year-old Minneapolis woman does set aside special time for her girlfriends, however. This year, the outing includes a dinner at the Loop restaurant with 12 friends, then a showing of “Fifty Shades Darker.”
“As we’re getting older, it’s harder to find as much time to do fun things together because there are so many life obligations,” she said. “To prioritize time when a bunch of other women around the world are doing it makes it more fun.”
Nahee Lee, 30, of Roseville, is getting together with 10 friends and co-workers for a sushi lunch and Cupid gift exchange. Lee said that because she is single, she doesn’t usually give much thought to Valentine’s Day, but when a co-worker brought up the idea of celebrating Galentine’s style, she was all in.
“Society tells you that you have to have a man on this date,” Lee said. “Celebrating with girlfriends takes away that pressure.”
Teeko Yang, 26, hosted a Galentine party and launch event on Thursday for “My Token Friend,” her podcast dedicated to empowering women through friendships.
Yang, of Minneapolis, said: “Once women find sisterhood, there’s nothing stronger than that.”
Got your greeting card?
As more women celebrate Galentine’s Day, more brands are responding with gifts marketed to female friendships.
Target sells Galentine’s-specific greeting cards, gift bags and a hardcover book called “Be My Galentine.”
“Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that how our guest celebrates Valentine’s Day has evolved,” Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said in an e-mail. “It’s no longer just a romantic holiday.”
Even Ivanka Trump is encouraging readers of her website to “celebrate your squad” on Galentine’s Day with brunch, gifts or a romantic comedy.
Minneapolis jewelry designer Larissa Loden is having a Galentine’s Day sale and in-store party with waffles (an homage to Leslie Knope’s love of waffles).
“I’ve always thought of Valentine’s Day as a more exclusive Hallmark holiday that is understood as a man-buys-woman-gift or man-takes-out-woman holiday,” Loden said. “Galentine’s Day is a more inclusive holiday. … It’s people loving people. With waffles!”