It started as fiction. In a 2010 episode of Parks and Recreation, Leslie, creative and crafty and bursting with kindness for the people she loves, invented a way to do something American culture hadn’t traditionally been too good at doing: celebrating, in an official capacity, the joys of female friendship. Leslie set Galentine’s Day as a festival that would fall, each year, on February 13: Valentine’s Day-eve. And she decided that the festivities—though the real point of it all is simply to celebrate the platonic love that exists among ladyfriends—should take the form of the thing that has brought women together for decades: a long and boozy brunch.
As Leslie explained it: “Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
Galentine’s Day was, in its initial conception, the character of Leslie Knope, fictional woman, realized in micro-holiday form: insistently earnest, aggressively generous, finding deeply canny methods of ensuring that every social occasion will involve the consuming of waffles.
But Galentine’s Day soon became popular among real-life women, too. The festival, after all, filled a need. It found a market. Like Friendsgiving before it, which was similarly coddled in the crucible of the sitcom, Galentine’s Day acknowledged a broad truth about American life as it’s lived in the early 21st century: Friendships, increasingly, are playing an organizing role in society. Long conceived as side dishes to the main feast—marriage, kids, the nuclear family above all—friendships, more and more, are helping to define people’s sense of themselves in the world. During a time of emergent adulthood and geographic mobility, friendships are lending stability—and meaning—to people’s, and especially young people’s, lives. The deepest friendships are operating not to replace the family unit, certainly, but to complement it.