Valentine’s Day is for lovers, but I’ll leave that part for you to figure out. It’s sometimes mocked as just a way for greeting card companies, florists and candy retailers to make money, but I like to look at it a different way. It’s a day for families and friends to focus on their love for each other and deepen their connections.
We have a long-standing tradition in our family to do a “pink food” day (luckily, we don’t have red food dye allergies). For us, that means meatloaf (with “pink” barbecue sauce on top), pink mashed potatoes, pink rolls, red Jell-O and pink fluff. Often, it also includes heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink frosting and red-hot cinnamon candies. Dinner also includes everyone at the table having an opportunity to hear what other family members love about them.
Other fun food ideas can include heart-shaped pizza, heart-shaped pancakes, heart-shaped doughnuts, heart-shaped sandwiches, using strawberries in a variety of foods, raspberry sherbet “floats,” kabobs with strawberries, blueberries and bananas and even strawberry milk.
There are so many other fun possible traditions for Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:
Write a letter (or letters) of appreciation. Be as specific as possible. “I love the way you fix breakfast every Saturday morning” or “I love seeing the world through your photographs.”
Make homemade Valentine’s. Remember the red and pink construction paper with paper lace doilies? Let your kids — of all ages — go crazy with making those simple cards. If your loved ones are older, have a contest for the “punniest” cards.
Tuck paper hearts into backpacks, lunch boxes and coat pockets for your loved ones to find throughout the day.
Have a picnic on the floor. Spread out a blanket and eat from paper plates while watching a cheesy romantic comedy.
Learn your loved ones’ “Love Language.” The five kinds identified by Gary Chapman are: “Words of Affirmation,” “Acts of Service,” “Receiving Gifts,” “Quality Time” and “Physical Touch.” Show love through their primary language. For example, “Receiving Gifts” is my forth or fifth love language, so buying me roses the day after Valentine’s is just fine. But if that’s your primary love language, waiting until February 15 will likely not go over well.
Play games with your family and friends. Pin the Heart on Cupid and Hide and Seek with heart-shaped bean bags can be fun with little ones. Get-to-know-you games like “What if” and “Apples to Apples” can be fun with older participants.
Read “love” books. One of my favorites is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. It makes me cry every time I read it, even after twenty years. I quote it to my four year old when she asks if I will love her when she’s big.
“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
Frame a favorite candid photo of your loved one and give it to them with a note about why you love them and why you love that particular memory.
Send a love letter through the U.S. Mail. That’s a rare enough event these days that it is sure to make a splash.
If you have some extra time, create a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt. Create clues that take them around the house to find a treat, or create an indoor/outdoor scavenger hunt that takes them around your yard and through your house — or Grandma’s house.
Even though Necco is no longer making conversation hearts, others candy companies have stepped in to fill the gap. Use those conversation hearts to create Bingo cards and play Heart Bingo. Or, use them as actual conversation starters. I know of a couple who got engaged sooner then he was expecting to pop the question because instead of handing his girlfriend a “Kiss Me” heart, he unknowingly handed her a “Marry Me” heart. True story.
Buy a dozen (or two) roses at Costco or somewhere else where you won’t break the bank and then take your kids to a public location and give roses out to people. Maybe it’s the mom with two kids in a stroller, or the older couple using walkers, or the young people holding hands. Or, deliver them anonymously.
Helen Keller said “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Here is to a heart-felt Valentine’s Day.
Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, loves that, this year, she is not making the pink dinner, only eating it.