photo: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash
When I grew up in Brooklyn, Valentine's Day consisted of giving my mom some homemade sentiments and my father exchanging cards with my mother. My husband Peter remembers it similarly in his home in Massachusetts. When Peter proposed to me, he designed for me a heart diamond ring (my favorite shape) and took me on a surprise limo ride from NY to where our first date was in Boston. There among the falling snow, and inside a charming Italian restaurant in the North End, he proposed to me. It was Valentine's day.
When my children were very little, V-day was a holiday for just my husband and I. We would try our best to get a sitter, or re-create our first one together which consisted of him cooking me his baked stuffed shrimp. There would be cards from each of us and a present to me, flowers, jewelry, and so on. This was our holiday.
I'll never forget when my son was four and it was around V-day, we went to a street fair and he bought me fake roses that would never die. Another time he bought me gold bracelets. Valentine's Day was still centered around me, the only female in the house, and I thought that was the norm.
(10 years old fake roses from my son who was four)
One day my little daughter exclaimed excitement about the impending holiday and wondered what she would be receiving. My husband and I stood there perplexed. Was this a new phenomenon that children were gifted on Valentine's Day as well? Or was this something that had always been and somehow escaped both of us?
Sure enough, I happily got into the swing of things and surprised my kids with candy baskets filled with hearts, lollipops, new stuffed friends, and forget-me-nots. Our tradition to include them has been like this ever since. Though my husband still comments he thinks it's all a bit strange to include children in what he had always perceived to be a holiday for adults, even though we do still go out to dinner by ourselves.
Now with Valentine's Day right around the corner, I decided to do some research and peek into people's lives to see what, if anything, does it mean to them. I was also curious about how they celebrated it as children.
Here are my Valentine's Day findings:
I asked 20 adults and 12 teenagers. 99% of the people I talked to have always been included in the holiday celebration as children and continue that with their kids. Many saw it as a child-oriented Holiday. Popular traditions include a special heart themed breakfast, surprise gifts like chocolates, and little toys. One family from Ireland calls it "love day." It includes the whole family. A few told me their Valentine traditions included hiding of the gifts and pretending they didn't know who gave them. Many dads I talked to still give V-day gift bags to their daughters while in college.
Peter still feels like since every day is basically Kids Day, Valentine's Day should be more adult-oriented and not Kid-centric. "A wonderful reason to come home early and spend quality time with my wife...Give her gifts, flowers, and take her out to a quiet dinner."
While I understand his sentiments, I think there is plenty of love to go around. As I'm typing this, I received a phone call from my son excitedly telling me what he's filling his sister's Valentine bag with...and that makes me happiest of all.