By Natasha Ashenhurst
I re-read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice every few years and have watched the five-plus-hour BBC film adaptation more times than I care to admit. A picnic at the beach with my husband is my idea of a perfect date, and I think that Michael Bublé singing Home is downright swoony. I’ll admit it, I am a hopeless romantic.
If you think this makes me the perfect candidate for a Valentine’s Day champion, you are wrong. In fact, until six years ago my husband and I did our best to ignore the holiday. Our inner-cynics declared it a card holiday, made up by ruthless advertising executives out to sell us more stuff.
These days, however, we celebrate each and every holiday, including Valentine’s Day, with good cheer, and we love every minute of it.
Our daughter was born, and from age three, she has looked forward to every holiday on the calendar with anticipation and delight. This is a girl who plans her birthday, down to the last sprinkle on the cupcake, at least six months before the event.
Finally, we conceded defeat and now go along with her elaborate plans to celebrate every chance we get. We’ve had to admit we were wrong about Valentine’s Day. It may have dubious origins as a holiday, but who cares! It is wonderful to decorate the house, enjoy delicious food and celebrate our love for each other.
Our family celebrates Valentine’s Day all day long, but how we do it varies from year to year depending on how it falls during the week and the amount of time that we have to devote to planning and preparations. Here are a few standard features.
Homemade Valentine’s Day Cards
Most kids are able to participate in a Valentine’s Day party in their elementary school classroom, and this means they’ll need cards for each student in the class. Some years we purchase cards, but homemade cards are fun to make and a delight to receive. This year we’re making personalized gift tags that we’ll attach to boxes of Sweethearts.
When we are at a loss for card ideas, inspiration usually strikes after we grab our supply of pink and red paper, red glitter, paint and one nice calligraphy pen. You can also turn to this article, by ThurstonTalk writer Jennifer Crain, that details even more ideas for homemade cards. While we’re at it, we like to make a few extra to mail to cousins, nieces, nephews, grandmas and grandpas.
For birthdays and holidays we grab colored construction paper and our pinking shears and cut out large triangles. Then, we attach the triangles to a long piece of ribbon and use it to decorate doorways. This year, we’ll use some of that red glitter to add some bling to our banners and flags.
Another great decorating option is to cut out hearts from colored paper, and tape the hearts to long ribbons, and then hang them from the ceiling over the table. We make decorative flowers from pipe cleaners and tissue paper.
This year, my daughter and I will be sure to wear red or pink clothing on the big day, but we haven’t convinced my husband and son to follow our lead, even after we told them that pink is the new navy.
Just like birthdays, on Valentine’s Day we celebrate with special food all day long. Our kids enjoy strawberry milk made with just a dash of strawberry-flavored syrup. Breakfast consists of heart-shaped pancakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Heart-shaped cookie cutters are our friend, and make it easy to turn just about any ordinary food item into a Valentine’s Day treat. My daughter loves to help me make heart-shaped cupcakes by placing one marble on the outside of the cupcake wrapper, topped with pink buttercream and sprinkles.
And, of course, if you don’t enjoy baking, you can head on over to your favorite cupcake or cookie shop and let them do the hard work for you.
A Romantic Evening for Two (Sorry kids!)
My daughter is nine, and my son is thirteen, and as they get older I don’t think they’ll enjoy these holidays as much as they did when they were little. I know that these are the tender years in which to create memories that my husband and I can recount later. But we’re also making memories for our children, and one of the most important parts of Valentine’s Day, according to my daughter, is when I get dressed up and go out to dinner with my husband. Seeing us go out for a romantic evening delights her, and research backs this up. According to psychologist and author, Dr. Willard Harley, one of the most important things parents can do for their children is to keep their marriage healthy by maintaining a loving relationship, and regular time alone without the kids is a great place to start.
Romance, even after 15 years of marriage, is always a good thing, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Our very first date was at a coffee shop and it was a night to remember, but a picnic at the beach isn’t bad either, even in February.