Couples embrace cultural influence on Valentine’s Day celebrations


Photo courtesy of @UofIllinois Twitter

The “Eternal Flame” located in the main quad was a gift from the Class of 1912. It is a popular location for people to kiss by the landmark in hopes for eternal love.

By Nandika Chatterjee, Staff Writer

Once a year, a day comes when the air is sweeter. Everything seems rose-tinted and the rose bushes lay bare while the sales of chocolate inflate. Cupid flutters around happily examining a job well done.

As Valentine’s Day arrives, couples at the University participate in many different celebrations and expressions of love. Cultural differences across the widely-diverse student population can influence what those celebrations and expressions of love are.

In the winter of their freshman year, Faye Yang, senior in LAS, met her boyfriend Rohan Vellathottam, senior in Engineering and international student from Singapore. Their first date at Bangkok Thai would blossom into a lasting relationship. This month, Yang and Vellathottam celebrated their three-year anniversary.

Coming from a Chinese American immigrant family, Yang reflected on concepts her family instilled in her, such as tough love.

“I did not grow up seeing my parents explicitly say ‘I love you’ or put an emphasis on special occasions,” Yang said. “My experiences inspired me to change that within my own relationship.”

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Yang also said that watching her parents work hard to build a life together showed her what love is.

“Watching my parents build a business together as restaurant owners, I learned that love is more than the grand celebrations,” Yang said. “I value Rohan not just as a boyfriend, but as a supportive partner in everything I do.”

Vellathottam spoke about his parents’ role in influencing how he shows love.

“My parents expressed their love or pride for me only when I accomplished or achieved something significant,” Vellathottam said. “This was common among me and my other Indian friends. Because of this, I always wanted to impress those around me, including those I love.”

Vellathottam also explained how his parents’ views on love impacted what love meant to him. However, his mindset has changed.

“This meant wanting to buy nice gifts or taking them out to dinner,” Vellathottam said. “In my current relationship, I have learned to appreciate the non-material aspects and focus on building a strong connection through quality time.”

Luisa Carrillo, junior in LAS, met her boyfriend, Adam Catris, junior in ACES, through Instagram.

Carrillo said that since her mother grew up in Mexico, Carrilo inherited her customs.

“I think my culture has a way of celebrating all types of love, especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day,” Carrillo said. “In Mexico, Valentine’s Day can be referred to as ‘el Dia de Amor y Amistad,’ which means the day of love and friendship.”

Carrillo also said that love is defined differently in Mexico than it is in the United States.

“I think here in the US, love is only seen in a romantic relationship type of love, and no one really talks about the platonic love we have for our friends,” Carrillo said.

Similar to Carrillo, Catris said that love can be more than just romantic but platonic too. He explained that it can be shown in many ways by all kinds of people.

“I feel like it (love) can be different in the familial ways we express love,” Cartis said. “Romantic ways such as cultural traditions play into love and relationship roles. Love can be expressed in so many ways, such as when my parents teach me things and always call in to check on me while I am away.”

Carrillo also said that environmental factors during childhood can also impact how individuals perceive love.

“Growing up, my mom always made sure I felt loved on Valentine’s Day,” Carrillo said. “She would give me presents and has a tradition of making pink pancakes. So, I always make sure my friends have presents.”

Jonathan Izurieta, sophomore in Engineering, has been dating his high school sweetheart, Emily Salinas, sophomore in Media, for three years.

Salinas said that she and Izurieta usually enjoy the classic Valentine’s Day celebrations.

“Nothing beats the classics when it comes to a Valentine’s Day celebration,” Salinas said. “We usually dress up nicely and have a nice dinner.”

Although they mostly partake in traditional celebrations of love, Izurieta recognized the role individual and shared cultures play in relationships.

“I believe culture does in fact play a role, but solely when it comes to special traditions, events and food that some cultures have for celebrating love,” Izurieta said. “The expression of love is universal, but the way we celebrate can differ from culture to culture.”

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