As I stroll through the aisles of the grocery store, I grab red and pink food coloring, strawberries, and the ingredients for sugar cookies and pancakes. I already have the heart-shaped sprinkles and cookie cutters at home, waiting for a day of giggles and baking with my daughters, 5 and 1.5, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day.
I’ve never had red roses or fancy dinners on Valentine’s Day, but I adore the holiday none-the-less. While it’s lambasted as a “Hallmark” holiday (a charge that has merit), it’s also a bright spot full of love and warmth during a long, gray New England winter.
It’s About Love: The Right Kind of Love
More importantly, it’s a chance to teach my girls to celebrate themselves and the love they have between family and friends. I never want my daughters sitting around wondering if a romantic partner will choose to acknowledge them on the holiday. Instead, I want them to know that they can always choose to enjoy a sweet treat and remind themselves just how special they are.
It sounds incredibly cheesy, but let’s be honest — what about Valentine’s Day isn’t cheesy? Plus, I know how nice a family-focused Valentine’s Day can be, because my mom started this tradition decades ago.
During middle and high school Valentine’s Day was fraught with potential social disasters. My school always did a carnation exchange. When the flower were handed out one-by-one in front of the class, everyone carefully watched to see who received a flower and, more importantly, who didn’t. It was fair to say that social standing was directly correlated to carnations received.
After a few years of this, my friends and I realized we could send carnations to each other. Still, the feeling of dread knowing that I could be flowerless in front of everyone persisted. All the buzz about choosing the person you love on Valentine’s Day means that some people, my middle school self included, are left forgotten.
At home, however, I never needed to worry about that. My mom always put in the effort to make each of her four children feel appreciated on Valentine’s Day. We would come home, after a socially stressful day at school, to a note detailing just how much she loved us, usually with a piece of chocolate or box of sweet hearts to drive home the message. It was a simple celebration — no presents or store-bought cards — but it was so important to me. Today, my husband and I opt to skip Valentine’s celebrations with each other. It just doesn’t resonate with us, to be told that on this specific day we need to celebrate our love. However, there’s something about defining Valentine’s how we want — by building up our daughters — that makes the holiday seem novel and fun again. So, I won’t be enjoying a fancy dinner, but I bet those heart-shaped pancakes will taste great.