The holiday for lovers has been friend-zoned.
Over the past decade, enthusiasm for Galentine's Day, a day to celebrate friendship rather than romance, has surged to a critical and commercial mass. Meanwhile, the bloom is off the rose for Valentine's Day.
Leslie Knope, the patron saint of female bonding, debuted the idea of Galentine's in a 2010 episode of the NBC hit sitcom "Parks and Rec." Knope, the show's lead character, played by Amy Poehler, described it as "Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas."
She explained the origin story for the uninitiated: "Oh, it's only the best day of the year. Every Feb. 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies."
This was a siren call to every woman's brunch-loving heart, especially those who needed an excuse to gather with their girlfriends.
Jennifer Walski said the episode inspired her and her friends to start their own Galentine's ritual.
"We used to call it Singles Awareness Day," she said. But even after she got married, the friends have kept up the tradition. Earlier this month, they hired Posh Picnic Events to set up a heated, decorated pod in the snow for drinks and dining as their Galentine's Day celebration. Company owner Rebecca Polys decked the pod with pink table settings, flowers, tulle and mini hearts.
"We knew that Posh Picnic was a little over the top," Walski said. "Our husbands wouldn't have enjoyed it."
In the spirit of Galentine's Day, she has also planned an outing to see "Mean Girls" at a local theater with another group of girlfriends. She had been needing some time with her friends after having a baby four months ago.
Walski says she loves her husband, and that they dutifully book dinner dates on Valentine's -- "but, honestly, I have much more fun doing Galentine's."
In fact, the whole Valentine's Day-timed romance seems a little forced, she said.
Walski is hardly alone in that sentiment.
The number of those participating in Valentine's Day activities has dropped off over the past decade. In 2009, 72% of adults aged 18-34 and 65% of those aged 35-54 said they planned to celebrate Valentine's Day. Ten years later, a 2019 survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics found that a little more than half of those under age 55 planned to celebrate.
A 2017 NRF poll revealed the top reasons consumers skipped out on Valentine's Day: They felt it was over-commercialized, they didn't have anyone to celebrate with or they just weren't interested. While about half of U.S. adults still plan to celebrate Valentine's Day this year -- and spend a total of $21.8 billion in the process -- that figure is down from $27.4 billion in 2020, according to the NRF.
Now, factor in a two-year-plus pandemic that has made dating even more challenging. Sana Habib, a St. Louis pediatrician, said that fewer social gatherings have meant that she's met fewer people. She plans to attend a Galentine's brunch with single and married women alike.
"You don't have to be in a relationship to celebrate love and friendship," she said.
The inclusive nature of Galentine's opens a larger customer pool for businesses looking to commercialize the sentiment.
Brianna Mullally tried to launch an event-planning business right before the pandemic struck. She works as a makeup artist, and teamed up with a photographer to host a Galentine's Day photo shoot and party for friends and past clients. They found a restaurant space, catered food and drinks and headed to a drag show after the event.
While "a lot of people think Valentine's Day is overrated now," Mullally said, "the idea of celebrating your friends has really gotten to people. We don't do that enough."
Galentine's is a slightly subversive take on a holiday that often leaves out the uncoupled. It's a message of empowerment parents can share with their daughters, rather than measuring one's worth by relationship status.
Mullally's business didn't survive the pandemic, but she plans on hosting another Galentine's Day in the future.
"We can claim this holiday for our own, on our own terms," she said.