I did a little research on Valentine’s Day traditions recently, and along the way came across many conflicting explanations about the origins of the holiday.
The Murky Origins of Valentine’s Day
Clear answers are hard to find here. However, I can tell you that people have been celebrating some form of Valentine’s Day for a couple of thousand years, that it probably began with a rather bawdy Roman festival including fertility rites and pairing off by lottery, and that it was later co-opted by the Catholic Church as a way to commemorate the deaths of somewhere between one and three different martyrs named Valentine.
So how was the celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day – a holiday centered around simple displays of love and affection – later transformed into a consumer-centered holiday of overly extravagant romantic gestures, lots and lots of red roses, and a 45-minute wait at your favorite restaurant down the street?
Your guess is as good as mine. But, if you can get beyond the commercialized aspects of it, Valentine’s Day can be a pretty wonderful holiday. My favorite way is by creating my very own Valentine’s Day traditions that will help brighten up the day for myself and those around me.
Why Limit Yourself to Romance?
When we were kids, most of us sent and received Valentine’s cards. We generally gave cards to everyone in our class, whether we liked them or not. But as we get older, we tend to associate Valentine’s Day more closely with romance, the feelings we have a for spouse or boyfriend. Certainly, that’s can be an important part of it. I like roses as much as the next girl. But I like to cast a wider ray of love on Valentine’s Day. I see it as an opportunity to celebrate the people I care about and appreciate, for all kinds of reasons and in many different ways.
But first, a story…
Something that I have treasured over the years is the silly yet affectionate Valentine’s Day tradition my oldest son, Alex, (AKA The Chairman in Training) rolls out each year.
Every Valentine’s Day without fail, Alex calls me and in his very deep, could-have-had-a-career-announcing-Cool-Jazz-on-the- Radio voice, and says, “Mom, can I ask you a very serious question?”
My answer, of course, is yes. After a meaningful pause, my firstborn asks, “Will you be my Valentine?”
A silly tradition perhaps, but this short call lets me know he’s thinking of me on a day that’s about connecting with people you love, and it makes me happy.
Spread the Love with New Valentine’s Day Traditions!
My purpose in this post is to get to consider who your Valentine’s might be, and perhaps encourage you to cast a wider net. Why? Because there are so many people in our lives that deserve to feel adored and appreciated. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we let them know? And found small but creative ways to show we care?
Don’t forget DILs, SILs, and MILs! If they live nearby, consider leaving a small note around the house telling them why you love and appreciate them. Try to leave it somewhere they won’t be expecting it. You would be surprised how special someone feels with just a heartfelt note on a Post-It. If they are not a family member who lives with you, send them a thankful text throughout the day.
One of my favorite ideas for young children is to give them items to gift to people in their lives. Teachers, their lunch lady, a coach or bus driver. Showing ways to be generous and allowing them to experience the joy of gifting is a good way to instill this habit in your children for holidays to come.
Send your bestie a $5 Starbucks card to their email and surprise them with a small gift of thanks for many shared laughs and tears over the years. It’s an easy, but fun, way to show you care.
I love to bake! If you do too, an easy way to spread love through your office is with a batch of homemade cookies. The kitchen’s not your thing? Don’t worry, there are plenty of local bakeries who would love to set you up with goodies to share with your friends at work.
This one could be anyone who makes your day better, think outside the box! I know this can be a long list, but I encourage you to have something on hand to pass out to those who brighten your day on valentine’s day. What about your pastor? The barista whose smile makes your morning? The babysitter? The guy who shovels your driveway when it’s snowing? The nurse at your doctor’s office who takes the time to call and see if you’re feeling better?
A Stranger at the Grocery Store
Another fun valentines tradition is to rent a Redbox movie (a popular one you know might get checked out right away once you’ve returned it) and put a few dollars and a note inside telling them to go buy some snacks for their movie. This is a great way to spread the love. (And one I wouldn’t mind receiving myself!)
One of the biggest struggles is appreciating and loving ourselves. This can also be a day to do something special for yourself. Be your own valentine by splurging on a pedicure (with red or pink polish, naturally) or take yourself out for a nice lunch or shopping trip to your favorite bookstore. (I recommend a visit to the romance section.)
A Nursing Home
Make little homemade valentine’s cards paired with some chocolates to take to the local nursing or veterans center. You will not find a more appreciative bunch – I can almost guarantee!
I am sure there are many other people and ways to show you care on just another day, but I hope this inspires you to get creative and spread a ray of light and love on Valentine’s Day!