Valentine’s Day, which is always celebrated on February 14 each year, is not just a day for lovers. Valentine’s Day is a day where friends and family can show how much they care, and love gets its 5 minutes of fame. I always think of Valentine’s Day as a day where we celebrate those who are in our hearts. 

Flowers, chocolates, and cards are sent all over the world as we celebrate friendships, relationships and the possibility of love. Soft toy sales go through the roof, and red roses treble in price. Secret admirers suddenly find the courage to make a move, and life-long partners get reminded to inject a little romance into their comfortable (and predictable!) relationship.

While many cringe at the commercial aspects of this special day, the underlying sentiment of Valentine’s Day is definitely worth celebrating, having evolved in remembrance of St. Valentine and his undying belief in love.

The history of Valentine’s Day

As the story goes, Valentine was a priest who lived near Rome in the third century. At that time the Roman army was in massive decline, and the Emperor believed it was due to men wanting to stay home with their wives and families. In an effort to solve the problem, Emperor Claudius passed a law banning marriages, and hoped that if men were single, they wouldn’t mind going to war.

As you could expect, the banning of marriages didn’t stop people from falling in love, and men were still reluctant to leave their sweethearts behind. So before men marched off to war, Valentine performed secret marriage ceremonies all over Rome. When his underground practice was revealed, St. Valentine was thrown in prison and sentenced to death.

While in prison Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter, and on February 14th 269 AD (the day of his execution), Valentine passed a love note to the young girl. The note thanked her for her friendship and loyalty, and was signed ‘From your Valentine’.

From then on friends and lovers followed Valentine’s lead, and used February 14th as the day to exchange love notes.

The movement led early Christian churches to use the day as a replacement celebration for the pagan Feast of Lupercalia. The pagan celebration had seen young men draw out a girl’s name from a barrel, and then take that girl as their ‘companion’ for the length of the festival. Valentine’s way of celebrating love fast became the Christian alternative to the pagan ritual, and the day became known as St. Valentines Day.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day traditions

Over the years Valentine’s traditions have evolved all over the world, with some of the most popular ones having unusual beginnings. Did you know…?

  • “Wearing your heart on your sleeve” originated in the Middle Ages, when people would draw names out of a bowl to find out who their Valentine would be. They then pinned the name on their sleeve and wore it for a week.
  • Red roses were said to be the favourite flower of Venus, the Goddess of Love. Today roses are still one of the most popular Valentine’s Day flowers, with different colours symbolising different feelings. Yellow is said to symbolise friendship, red to symbolise passion, and white – true love.
  • In Medieval times people who could not write their names would sign documents with an ‘X’, and then kiss it in front of a witness as a symbol of sincerity. As time went by, ‘X’ became known as the sign of a kiss.
  • Not so many centuries ago, women used to drop their lace handkerchiefs in front of potential suitors, in the hope they would pick it up and start a conversation. Lace is still thought of as a romantic ‘pick up’, although handkerchiefs are not usually the item of choice!

How is Valentine’s Day celebrated?

Traditionally, cards, flowers and chocolates have been used to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but this can get expensive.

With love being such a good reason to celebrate, why not start your own Valentine’s Day tradition with your friends, family, or partner? It doesn’t have to be expensive, but instead think of something that comes straight from the heart. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Make some homemade chocolates and give them to a friend with the recipe attached. They then pass on the love by making some chocolates of their own, and give them to another friend with the recipe attached. The chocolate chain of love continues, and who knows….you may end up getting some chocolates back!
  • Instead of buying a bunch of flowers on Valentine’s Day, why not plant a flowering tree so that you and your Valentine can enjoy it year after year.
  • Cut out lots of little cardboard hearts, and on each one write something you love about your Valentine. Drop all the hearts into a decorated box, and your Valentine can pull one out each time they need a boost.
  • Use Valentine’s Day to remember people who need a little love, and help out a local charity. You can give a little of your own heart by volunteering your time, or making a donation towards the work they do.
  • Make a voucher book that your loved one can redeem for special treats. You can make the treats as practical or romantic as you like – or maybe a little bit of both!

Valentine’s Day ideas for children

Over time the celebration of Valentine’s Day has shifted from being strictly for lovers, into the realm of friendship and family as well. If your child is at school, they’ll probably be keen to do something creative on Valentine’s Day. Here are some ideas focused on children, friends and families:

  • Younger children delight in making home-made Valentine’s cards for their special friends at school. This can simply involve paper, some writing and a big coloured-in red heart, or it could involve cut-out pictures and glitter.
  • Primary school children often like to give something special to their teacher – once again, this should not be expensive, and might include a home-made card, an apple, or some flowers from the garden.
  • With intermediate and college students, things can get a bit more complicated – with crushes, young love, and rampant hormones causing emotional upset! You may need to help manage your child’s expectations carefully to avoid tears and hurt feelings on Valentine’s Day. Teens are unlikely to find home-made cards “cool” and may wish to spend their pocket money on a “real” card or flowers; once again, some gentle guidance about expectations and what’s a reasonable level of expenditure may be in order.

Valentines Day for parents

Of all the Valentine’s family traditions we’ve come across, this is the favourite of the Kiwi Families team: Dads who give their daughters a Valentine’s card every year to express their love and admiration of their daughter, and Mums who do the same for their sons.

This is a truly special expression of love that can continue long after your child leaves home.

We’ve also got a wonderful collection of ideas on our Pinterest Valentine’s Day board. Head on over and check it out now. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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