In grade school, Valentine’s Day was pretty neat: mailboxes made out of milk cartons and cereal boxes decorated with tissue paper and heart-shaped doilies, overflowing with ready-made and homemade Valentines; boxes of candy hearts; school parties with cupcakes and juice.
Everybody shared in the fun. No one was left out. We had to make a Valentine for everybody in class: the teacher, the brainiacs, the shy kids, the awkward ones, boys and girls, even the bullies. It was fun to include everyone, walking past each decorated box and dropping in the notes.
Then came junior high, when some people started to get left out. A few people were deliberately “forgotten” in the filling of mailboxes, if there even were mailboxes. The shy, awkward and brainiac kids had only a few notes. The bullies may have received some extras as peace offerings. The psychological tricks of the “in” crowd turned this party-friendly, sociable, happy holiday into a disappointment. Valentine’s Day became the day when one’s status was formally revealed. One celebrated an abundance of notes, or slipped one’s meager few deep into a backpack pocket to be pondered later, when no one could count on one hand the number of cards received.
By high school, I grew to detest Valentine’s Day. It became a couple’s holiday. Girls had dates, or they didn’t. They had parties to attend, or they stayed home.
During most of high school, I stayed home. No dates, no parties. I just sat and watched some sappy Hallmark movie on TV, feeling sorry for myself. Like Charlie Brown, my mailbox, the one by the curb, was empty except for a card from Grandma. I dearly loved my Grandma and prized her card, of course, but it’s not exactly what I was hoping for.
One especially mopey year, my dad (under clear instructions from Mom, I suspect) brought home a card and small gift: a heart-shaped box. Lifting the lid revealed a music box. I turned the crank and it played a melancholy rendition of “The Way We Were.” I still have the box. You can listen to it yourself.
In spite of this lovely parental gesture, I grew to dislike Valentine’s Day, even dread it. It made me feel unloved and unwanted. Left out.
So when our kids were little, and since I didn’t really like the holiday much anyway, I determined to turn it into a big family holiday. We call it our Family LoveFest, and we celebrate on Valentine’s Day. The Belgian Wonder and I do not go out on that day (our anniversary is shortly after, so we go out sans enfants then). My theory is that eventually a sister will have an invitation to something–a dance, a date, a party with friends–and the others won’t. My hope is that our Family LoveFest will be such a wonderful time of fun, food, love and laughter, that whoever is stuck at home won’t feel “stuck” at all. In fact, I love the thought that the one with the invitation might even be thinking a little bit about us, wondering what she’s missing! I know, I know. That isn’t likely to happen, but maybe it will ease the sting for those left behind.That’s the background and motivation for Family LoveFest. Here’s what we do:
Family LoveFest Menu planning. We plan the menu together, as elaborate or simple as we are in the mood for. When the kids were younger, they liked it super-simple, so we didn’t make it any more involved than they wanted. Now that they’re older, they are branching out and suggesting different food items. We usually try to include lots of red and pink items, but we don’t force it. They like red Jell-O and jellied cranberry sauce. Tomato-based main courses. Pink lemonade. Angelfood cake with pink icing. Strawberries.
We try to involve the kids as much as possible in the planning so that there’s ownership on all fronts. This year we have the unexpected pleasure of sharing Valentine’s Day with their grandparents. Two of the kids asked if they could be the waiters. “Only if you really want to,” I said, “because this is your LoveFest, too.”
“We want to!” they exclaimed. “It sounds like fun!” Wonderful! Besides, serving others and love go together. That works.They want to write out a menu and serve courses. They want to dress up. They’ll decorate the table themselves–probably with bears holding homemade hearts. And they may scatter M&Ms around for color (and chocolate). We’ll make Valentine cards for everybody, with special love messages, because in our Family LoveFest, no one gets left out. And we’ll go around and tell each person what we admire about him or her–Valentine’s Day affirmations.
I do go online sometimes (this year I’ll be checking out the ideas listed at WFMW!) for creative ideas, but the basic concept is the same: to let everyone in the family know that no matter what’s happening at school with friends or bullies or boyfriends and girlfriends or the lack thereof, they are and always will be loved at home.Please visit Rocks in My Dryer for more great ideas!
Everyday Mommy says
I love this idea! But, I also love Valentine’s Day. I was born on Feb. 14 over a hundred years ago. But, shhhh…don’t tell anyone.
So of course you have your own unique traditions!
You know that all twelve people who read this blog might take note of this, Jules! So don’t blame me if word gets around! (Happy early birthday, in case I forget to wish you one before or after the LoveFest) 🙂
I love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing. I think it is so important to create FAMILY traditions. My husband and I normally go out on a different night anyway! Thanks so much for sharing!
This is so wonderful. I really like hot thought-out this family tradition is. And I am going to snatch it right up! Thank you for sharing!
Nikki All OUT Valentine’s Day
I meant to say “how thought-out” NOT “hot thought-out”!
What a lovely tradition! I’m sure your family treasures this special holiday.
Everyday Mommy says
I’m thinking of counting backwards this year. Back to 43 rather than forward to 45. What’cha think? Works for me!
I love love love this idea! Thanks so much for sharing, I will definitely be putting this one to use. Happy Valentine’s Day! =)
Jennifer, Snapshot says
I forgot jello molds! I posted some fun ideas for a Vday family dinner, but I’ll have to add Jello molds to ours. They will love it.
Ann, I love your site (I have those books on my header, too!). I don’t think I’ve been here before but I’m going to bookmark and come back. You have a wonderful way with words.
Lines From The Vine says
That’s a great idea…everyone should know that no matter what, they are loved!
I’m with you, Valentine’s Day was so fun as a little kid, then it got so competitive when we got older.
In our high school, big heart shaped cookies were made in HomeEc and messages were attached to them. You were allowed to purchase these cookies and have them delivered (by the cheerleaders) on Valentine’s Day to a person (s) of your choice. Talk about the potential for public humiliation. The popular kids got multiple cookies delivered and the not-so-popular kids often got none and everyone knew it!
I really like your idea of making a Family Love Fest so that, at home, everyone is included and feels loved! Thanks for sharing.
Stop by and take a peek at my WFMW Valentine’s Day advice & ideas post. 🙂
Thats a wonderful idea! I wonder if its too late to get my teens into this, you know they are starting to think we’re geeky the way it is, lol. Their friends love us, though!
I’m so happy to hear from everybody! Happy Valentine’s Day to you all, too!
Now it’s time for me to prowl around the other WFMWs and see if I can find some more great ideas to toss out at our next Family LoveFest planning discussion!
And Everyday Mommy: You could also do the Jack Benny thing and just stick with 39. Milestone birthdays deserve extra love, especially when they fall on Valentine’s Day. I hope you come up with a great celebration.
Overwhelmed: Sometimes I wonder what schools and teachers are thinking?? They really didn’t think through that cookie idea. Maybe it sounded like a good idea in the teacher’s lounge…
qtpies7: You *must* be cool if their friends love you! I was just thinking…my husband and I are driving this LoveFest because our kids were young when we started it, but maybe if you’re just launching it, you could you ask your teens to spearhead the planning? You could ask them to involve their younger siblings, but it could be primarily their creation?
What a great tradition !!
Barbara H. says
Our Valentine’s traditions are family-based rather that couple-based, too.
Sounds like a lovely time!
Amy W says
This was a wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing. Our high school sold roses for Valentine’s Day and if you got one or 3 or 5- you carried it [them] around all day so it was obvious if you didn’t get one. I once thought of buying one and sending it to myself hoping that I would stop feeling so left out- but I knew it would just be a “cover-up”.
We have our own Love Fest here- big fun family dinner with all our favorite foods on my fanciest china with lots of candles. We never go out or leave the kids on Valentine’s Day. After all, home is where your heart is. Why would I want to be anywhere else?
Love your ideas!!
What a wonderful, loving idea… Too often we exclude the kids, when in fact, they need to feel the love too.
What a great post! I totally believe in a family based celebration too!
My parents did this (much less intentionally) and I have to say that it did help to make the day easier when I was dateless. Also, when my single days lasted far longer than I would have wanted, I never dreaded the holiday because it had more than one empahsis. I think you are on the right track!
It’s fun to read all of these replies, and to be even more inspired by the additional ideas!
When we have company over, I’m scooting chairs around and preparing the dining room, thinking how to make the evening a little more special, pulling out candles and the china. There’s a sense of anticipation that grows in the house as we pick up toys and dust and the food is being prepared with extra care. I love for the kids to think that this coming week, we’re doing all of those things for *us.*
Julie Q. says
I am SO going to do this. I love the idea and we are in desperate need of some love-sharing (and M&Ms) around here.
Funny how in High School when I never had a date on VDay, it was such a big deal. Now I have a ready-made partner and we often overlook the holiday. Sad really, not funny.
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