I’m about to write something extremely controversial and provocative. Proceed with the pitchforks and torches if you must. It will not change my opinion. Here goes. I’m glad—no, downright gleeful that my kids’ Catholic school does not celebrate Valentine’s Day. There. It’s officially out there. I’m truly happy there will be no shoebox “mailboxes” wrapped in red and pink paper and plastered with colorful stickers and foam heart decorations. No cutesy purple cupcakes heaped with gobs of frosting and sprinkles. No party with pastel streamers, balloons, Pinterest-inspired crafts, sugary drinks paired with adorable polka-dotted straws, and candy galore. Some of these things I look back on fondly from my own youth. I did really love those candy hearts with the pithy little sayings… miss you, be mine, kiss me. And taking my stuffed mailbox back to my desk where I opened each valentine with eager anticipation—I’ll admit—it was fun. And yet, I don’t want that same pleasurable memory for my own kids? There’s a reason I’ve taken such a counter-cultural stance against the feast of February 14th. In one sentence, we’ve lost our minds, folks. We took a turn towards Cuckoo-Ville, accelerated, and haven’t looked back.
Call me an A-1 party pooper, but I don’t want to spend time making homemade Valentine’s Day cards for all 25 kids in each of my three kids’ classes. Heck, I don’t even want to buy the cheap-looking ones from the store, which are NOT cheap at all. They’re over-priced and over-the-top. While they used to include corny puns and a blank line for the child’s signature, now, they come with bubble wands, pencils, erasers, scented tattoos, gel clings. Because nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day!” like a super sticky, mini gel red hand meant to be thrown at the wall. In short, junk. Some poor people in China toil away their lives in factories so we can send our kids to school with all this stuff, so their friends, in turn, can take them home and promptly throw them out.
Our kids titter and giggle about whether or not their crush gave them a card. We inadvertently confuse them about romantic love when they have no real business concerning themselves with it at this stage in the first place. Ick. We fete the day with extravagant parties that room moms have painstakingly planned over the course of several meetings. They discuss colorful menu items, Valentine’s day-themed games, and how to make the holiday a hit for their little ones. They spend too much money. Trust me. I know. I’ve been one of those moms. BUT STOP!
As Christians, our Valentine’s Day should look different than the consumeristic holiday it’s become. If you’re not following me, walk into any grocery store at this time, which most of us are required to do, and it’s like a hot pink volcano exploded, spewing flowers and pink confetti in every aisle. I’m down with love. I LOVE love! This is not love we’re celebrating. We’ve merely reduced it to the cheesy romantic love that plays out in greeting cards and Hollywood rom-coms, but not authentic love that involves sacrifice and selflessness. It’s a cheap imitation. The world takes something beautiful, contorts it, puts pretty packaging on it, and sells it back to us at a steal. Only $4.99 for all this cheap plastic? Wow! Yes, gimme 25.
What does the Catholic church say about St. Valentine? While the origin is undoubtedly Catholic, there is speculation about the real St. Valentine. It is believed that he is based on the amalgamation of three martyrs from different places and times who showed profound love to God and His church, such love that they each died for it. In 1969, the church dropped the observance of the feast from the Roman liturgical calendar since they couldn’t pinpoint the historical accuracy. But this idea of profound love for the Lord and others, this is the beacon we need so badly, in order to steer us out of this worldly pastel fog.
Those of you moms who would be devastated if little Jonny wouldn’t get to hand out or receive Valentines this year, consider some more powerful ways to incorporate love into their day. Make this Valentine’s Day about authentic love. Here are my tips to bring Christ to your Valentine’s Day celebration this year.
1. Before and after school bring up the subject of loving God and others. Suggest they perform an act of kindness without anyone else knowing. Pick something up in the lunchroom for the lunch ladies. Remind them to love the way God loves them: without condition or barrier. When they come home, have them share one good deed or selfless act they performed that day. Did he or she exhibit the love of Christ to a teacher or student today? Did they go out of their way to include someone who was being excluded? This is Christian love.
2. In morning family prayer, witness to your kids the beautiful, practical ways your spouse or a loved one expresses authentic love. Say out loud for little ears to hear, “Lord, I’m grateful for the way my husband patiently listens to me when I’m angry, upset, or overwhelmed. I am blessed that he puts our family’s needs ahead of his own and loves us unconditionally. I love that he knows I need help with the dishes more than a bouquet of flowers.”
3. Have them write a love letter or prayer of thanksgiving to God. It could be as simple as having them offer up a prayer of gratitude in family morning prayer or have them meditate on it during the day. Then they can share God’s blessings for evening prayer.
4. Read a saint story that exhibits a profound love of God and others. Other people’s stories resonate in our own lives and make a big impact. There are countless Saint options here. Some of our family’s favorites: Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio, Gemma Galgani, Mother Teresa, Dominic Savio. Google a saint, read his or her story. Discuss. Done.
5. Write Valentine’s Day cards to the elderly. This is when you can tap into your craftiness for a good purpose. Make cards for a nursing home or an elderly neighbor. Deliver them and watch Christ’s love transform the giver and recipient.
These are merely small ways to make Valentine’s Day more Christ-centered. But they all echo something much bigger—real Christian love—not the frothy, frilly consumer version that is shoved down our throats. For the record, my kids get to wear pink or red on Valentine’s Day. They assemble “blessings bags” for the homeless. The ziplock bags are filled with donated toiletries and other useful items the kids can hand out to those we encounter on our daily commute. Coincidentally, we will also be celebrating our parish’s feast day this week, while the rest of the world revels in sugary sweet confections. Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to a young, poor French girl in 1858. Mary had a simple message: she told Bernadette to pray and make sacrifices for sinners. Talk about true love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
19 thoughts on “Tips to Make Your Kids’ Valentine’s Day About True Love (No Crafting Involved!)”
Very eloquent and spot on! Many thanks, Mary Jo. Fr. Jack
Thank you, Fr. Jack! That means a lot to me.
I agree completely. Another thought… Ask them for an example of how God loved them today… may take some nudging at first but they’ll soon have lots of examples. And it builds a solid lifelong habit of recognizing all His blessings.
Thanks, Julie! Good suggestion. Forming good habits are a big help down the road.
Let’s take back the culture!
We should call this lovely holiday (holy day) Saint Valentine’s Day (Again)!
Solid. I’m in! An early happy St. Valentine’s Day, Tito!
Thank you Mary Jo. Indeed Valentine is an inspiration to many. In our place, the much revered Valentine Day is celebrated with gusto. Blood donation drives, offering several hours of free labor to serve community needs, visiting the elderly, the sick, organizing games for kids, collecting left over food from restaurants and distributing it among the homeless, these and many are the acts of genuine love and sharing by our admirers of the legendary Valentine.
Dr. Coelho, your comment captures just how much we can do to witness authentic Christian love. Bravo!
I’m all about reclaiming St. Valentine’s Day for the patron saint day that it is—all about God’s love made manifest through human works of mercy on this side of heaven—but I also *love* that so many of my non-Catholic Christian friends, my atheist friends, my secular friends, my neighbors, celebrate St. Valentine’s Day with such gusto. How wonderful that we still have these Catholic moments in our culture (however much the Catholic origins are forgotten or unrecognized in the commercialization and celebration thereof). If we start arguing that we should do away with the school parties, the valentines’ exchanges, the visible celebration, are we inadvertently rendering our St. Valentine’s Day conscripted only to the halls of Catholic schools and parishes and families? Hooray for our Catholic heritage and its wide celebration! St. Valentine’s Day is a wonderful day to evangelize our rich tradition to everyone around us. Thank you for the (candy heart) conversation [see what I did there? haha!]. Blessings to you all!!!
Good questions and thoughts, Kathryn! Thanks. I’ve just had enough of the banana-land parties. Our little darlings can survive without extravagant parties and they’ll like it. “When I was a kid we walked 25 minutes in a snowstorm… and we liked it!” Seriously, I think simplicity and moderation are the answers here.
Banana-land parties! So funny! That’s what I will call them from here on out… (Also, is it bad that I literally hosted a banana-themed birthday party for my Anna Banana?!) Thanks for your witness!
Undoubtedly many kids will remember this when they invariably decide to leave the faith upon reaching adulthood. I was raised similar to this way and it made me run for the hills of secular hedonism at the first chance I could. I spent the next 20 years with disdain for any and all religion and even lost appreciation for all of the many positive things about the Church.
The message I took out of it was…Jesus hates all things fun. Here’s where it gets tricky: I conflated dangerous fun with the harmless fun that my family and teachers forbade in their haughty quest to “speak for Him.” So, in the end, addiction and self-destruction were the same to me as Valentine’s cards, secular Christmas traditions and any other fun fads that sad, conflicted adults hated, and then hid behind a religious cloak to justify their denial of simple fun.
Needless to say, I grew up successful in my chosen fields, happily married to my wife, but utterly divorced from any spiritual life. After 20 years in this state, an otherwise inexplicable miracle proved to me God’s existence and offered some clues about His nature. I returned to the Catholic Church, but it’s not an easy fit, by any means, nor should it ever be, I suppose. To the Left of me, I find those perverting the religion for the sake of rationalizing sinister modernist inventions and doctrinal errors. To the Right of me, I find people who use God to rationalize their own bitterness, laziness or lack of appreciation for simple, stupid joys.
I never had any children, but if I ever do, I vow to teach them the wonders and mysteries of our Father, and also our religious culture and heritage…AND help them fill out 26 overpriced paper hearts with scented tattoos, and I will be thankful that God has given me hands to fill them out, money to waste on them, and the love for my child to help them do this.
Your story offers a really good perspective. I’m not honestly saying, “Down with Valentine’s Day!” But there’s a limit of what’s healthy. It’s more of a both AND approach. I just don’t like the encroachment of commercializing anything with real meaning. It’s a regular theme in my writing. Thanks for your powerful insight!
If you are dedicated enough to fill out 26 x 3, 4, or 5 cards, way to go!!! Although, I have yet to meet a single dad who does it. 😉
I agree with you. We have too many sincere young parents afraid to have Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy in their children’s lives. They have been frightened with the idea that the above mentioned childhood cultural practices will ruin their children’s belief in God later on in life. I homeschooled my children but never bought into the more puritanical ideas such as allowing only saint costumes at Halloween etc. My adult children are all committed Catholics.
Anne, I could learn a lot from you! Your success rate of raising committed Catholics is very impressive in the culture we inhabit. My goal is also to raise children who love God and his church. If you ever have good parenting tips, pass them my way, please. Mom wisdom begs to be passed on! God’s peace.
Everything that Patrick said nailed it. While I get railing against consumerism and secularism, I think sometimes a Puritanical strain has entered a lot of orthodox Catholic families.
And yes, for the record, I am helping my 6 kids choose/create their St. Valentine’s cards- unicorn gel clings and all 😉 .
You go, Rose! Happily, we can all fit under the big tent of our Catholic Church, Valentine’s Day lovers and those who despise gel clings. I don’t want to be mistaken by my post- a lot of it is hyperbole to make a point. Thanks for your comments!
Thank you Mary Jo! While here in the UK (and in Italy where I was brought up) schools don’t have parties as you describe (pheeeeew!!), we do have a problem with really gross sexualised cards, so if you want to find a truly loving one for a good spouse you have to do it squinting through half closed eyes – trying not to see all the filth – bleh. I usually give up and resort to homemade heart shaped cake, cookies or meringues for my husband. To be shared with all the children! The culture is really pushing against making it about the love of family and friendship – even the kids are brainwashed to read it all as romantic (and therefore, sadly, sexual) love: but luckily mine have a weirdo Catholic mum who gives them little heart shaped things!
Keep up the good work, Vanna! Thank you for offering keen insight into Euro culture. Your children are truly blessed to have a “weirdo Catholic mum!”