Is Valentine’s Day a manufactured holiday?

Editor's note: This story originally published Feb. 18, 2012.

Set aside, for the moment, the fact that all holidays are made-up holidays. This particular one was invented a long, long time ago, dating back to medieval times and the concept of courtly love. As my friend Michelle Holley noted, “Chaucer was the first person to mention the holiday in the 1300s. There is a long tradition of giving Valentines, which is really quite lovely.”

I have loved Valentine’s Day since Miss Richards’ kindergarten class at Meadowlawn Elementary School in Kettering, Ohio. What could be better than that red cardboard box stuffed with heart-shaped tributes from your friends?

This year, I felt a bit blue because my husband had to work that night, and our traditional romantic dinner would be delayed by one day. It reminded me how much fun it wasn’t to be single on Valentine’s Day. As children’s librarian Patricia Clingman noted, “I grumble every year about Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day and New Year’s Eve as a single person. Then at work, a toddler brings me a homemade Valentine or a preschooler gives me tissue paper flowers, and I melt and remember that most of these holidays mean more to children, and I try to keep that spirit about me.”

I put the question to my Facebook friends, who mostly agreed with me in springing to the defense of Valentine’s Day. Ellen Rehg of St. Louis said that her husband, Bill, gave her a “boat load” of socks, to which she responded, “How romantic!,” with perhaps a trace of sarcasm. “Bill told me he remembered me saying that having good socks made me feel secure,” she said. “OK, that is romantic!”

Carol Self of Beavercreek, Ohio, echoed the thoughts of many when she said, “I’ve never thought of Valentine’s Day as a made-up holiday, but Sweetest Day definitely is. We’d never heard of Sweetest Day until we moved to the Midwest, and to this day have never celebrated it.”

Asked Candy Winteregg of Huber Heights, Ohio, “So what if it is a made up holiday? It is so much fun to watch and be involved in Valentine’s Day. We need more ‘made- up’ holidays like this one.”

Shannon Joyce Neal of Centerville, Ohio, put a lot of stock into Valentine’s Day when she was first dating her husband, but now “I put far more emotional value on the anniversary of our first date and our wedding, although the latter is often overshadowed by our older son’s birthday the day before.”

Observed Maureen Schlangen of Kettering, “We all take our loved ones for granted. A holiday like Valentine’s Day or Sweetest Day is a little reminder to do something nice for someone we appreciate. That’s worth a lot more to another person than it is to Hallmark or Esther Price. If someone has a problem feeding a corporate giant, go local. That’s good for everyone.”

Rather than mope over the absence of my sweetheart, I decided to go local this Valentine’s Day and take my daughters out to Christopher’s, one of our favorite Kettering restaurants. I cheered up when the girls got into it so wholeheartedly, decorating Valentine’s boxes and designing homemade cards. “I’m jealous that you get to have a Valentine’s Day party in your class,” Veronica confessed to NiNi, a fifth-grader. But Veronica found her own way to celebrate, wearing a dress sprinkled with hearts like polka dots and buying carnations at school for her friends.

And she made me a card that depicted “all the things my mother loves” on the cover: cats, coffee, candlelight and trips to Paris (ah, yes, these are so plentiful in my life).” On the back she wrote, “She loves her family the most of all! Because unlike ‘things,’ family will ALWAYS love you back!’”

Who could feel depressed after that?

It wasn’t the romantic dinner I’d envisioned, perhaps, but I had a very sweet evening going out with my daughters and my Dad.

Valentines, I realized, come in all packages.

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