“Whoa! That’s a lot of Valentines … Are you a teacher?” A man asked as he stared at my cart incredulously while my kids and I checked out of the Dollar Store last weekend. Toting 100 paper Valentines plus a piece of candy to attach to each one, I was genuinely happy to answer, “No I’m not, but my kids are taking Valentines to their classes at school.”
Later that same evening my husband grumbled about all the candy I’d bought, how it’s just “one more thing” we needed to do for school. I had to disagree. You see, I was actually giddy to buy all that candy. Of all the things kids don’t get to experience at school anymore, I am happy to say Valentine’s Day is (hopefully) a tradition that’s here to stay.
A lot of traditions and holidays have been done away with in many of our nation’s elementary schools. The Pledge of Allegiance might be said once a week, if at all, in 2013. And classic playground games like Dodge Ball are now a no-no while Red Rover got the ax long ago. The word “Christmas” has been eradicated, substituted by “holiday” and there are no longer classroom “Easter” parties or “Easter” egg hunts, but “spring” hunts and parties are plentiful. Anything Halloween has been replaced by “harvest” — harvest parties, harvest festivals and harvest attire too. A straw hat and overalls are fine on scarecrow day, but children must not wear Halloween costumes on Oct. 31 for fear they’ll simply be too distracting. Last year, I mistakenly told my son he’d better wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or be prepared to be pinched, only to be told his teacher had already warned his class that pinching wouldn’t be permitted.
I’ve slowly begun to accept the fact that childhood staples like bringing birthday cupcakes to class are passé. And where at least small gifts like pencils from the birthday child for the other 30 students were a welcome sub-par substitute for a little while, now those are gone as well.
Instead other annual events have been embraced and elevated in most public as well as private elementary schools. The anti-drug “Red Ribbon Week” is a weeklong affair, as is “Teacher Appreciation Week.” Chinese New Year gets the royal treatment and the 100th day of school oddly gets all the bells and whistles, too.
Holidays and celebrations at school have changed, but Valentine’s Day has remained as stable as ever. Not only may my kids bring paper Valentines to their school classmates, they get to bring candy too?! But really, who could deny a day that says, “I care about you” all day long? There’s just nothing un-PC about it, except for maybe the astronomical prices of flowers or the impossibility of getting dinner reservations … but let’s get back to the kids.
Valentine’s Day certainly started with controversy. St. Valentine was a martyred priest in Rome; he was beheaded in 500 A.D. for secretly officiating the weddings of Christian soldiers, who were forbidden from getting married at the time because they were being persecuted under the Roman Empire. Legend states that before his execution, Valentine wrote “From your Valentine” as a farewell to the jailer’s daughter, whom he’d befriended.
In present day Feb. 14 is simply a worldwide day of red, pink, roses and candy, timeless symbols of peace, love and happiness. Even if someone doesn’t have a romantic love, he or she can smother their family and friends with adoration and appreciation and I’m glad we still celebrate it. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Julie Samrick is the mother of four children and a resident of El Dorado Hills. She is also the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to current children’s issues.