Finding the Love in Valentine’s Day

how to make valentines day hold meaning again like it did when we were kids

3 Simple Ways to Make Valentine’s Day as Special as It Was When You Were a Kid

I’ve never been one who appreciates holidays that, to me, feel forced. You know: New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day… I am too conscious of the commercialism surrounding these days. The irony is that I am not an especially cynical person—but I want to know that a card with an “I love you” sentiment is coming from the heart, not a heart-shaped, guilt-inducing ad.

I don’t want to seem like a February scrooge, though, so I’ve come up with 3 ways that likeminded folks can mark the day with meaning.

Write a love letter.

Have you ever written a love letter? With handwritten notes completely falling by the wayside in our text-driven world, getting one is more special than ever.

You might want to go all out, writing a heartfelt missive on luscious stationery and decorating it with a romantic wax seal.

If that seems old-fashioned or intimidating, here’s an idea that I came up with early in my own relationship with my husband: Write a list of 20 things you love about the person. Include things big and small, emotional and funny. Details get extra credit (don’t say “I love the way you hug me,” but say, “I love the way you hold me for a few extra seconds when I try to pull away from a hug,” or “I love the way you lift me up just a little bit every time we hug”). If you make this an annual tradition (I admit I did it on birthdays, not Valentine’s Day), it can be surprising which things get repeated and what new things you come up with.

If you merely write this on a yellow legal pad with no adornment, I guarantee it will still be saved and cherished by the recipient. I chose to typeset it and shrink it down to credit card size, then have it laminated; what better thing could your loved one serendipitously pull out of his or her wallet one day in the future?

Spread the love.

I am willing to bet that for many of us, our happiest Valentine’s Days happened when we were kids. I have lots of fond memories of exchanging paper valentines with my classmates, of folding red construction paper in half to craft hearts for the refrigerator, and even wearing pink to school to honor the day. Those were the days when everyone could “be mine,” when as third graders we weren’t hoping and praying for that special someone to take notice…when we loved everyone.

Why not spread some of that all-encompassing love around in unexpected ways? Buy a pack of punny Valentines from the drugstore and hand them out to people you interact with regularly: the school crossing guard, the gas station attendant, the conductor who checks your ticket on your morning commute? There’s something cheeky about it (I’m pretty sure none of the recipients will mistake your “Choo choo…I choose you!” sentiments as being literal ; ), but there’s something genuine, too—an unexpected “I see you,” and “I am grateful.”

Attach a $5 gift card for your local coffee house and you’ll really make someone’s day.

Rediscover favorite Valentines.

Do you have a stash of letters and old paperwork in a box somewhere? You felt compelled to save the things within, but chances are you haven’t revisited them in a while. Once you remember where the box actually is (good luck!), dust it off, and dive in.

What did you find?

vintage children's valentines with puns and love sentiments

I hope you, like I did, discover artifacts that

  • bring back heartfelt memories
  • stir emotions
  • make you laugh
  • inspire you to record your memories, share stories with a loved one, or even just pick up the phone to reconnect with an old Valentine.

It’s my job to recommend that you find a way to preserve these mementos (scan them for a digital archive, include them in an heirloom book, or follow archivist Margot Note’s advice for creating your family archive). That said, I think it’s equally important to just cherish these items: pull them out of their box every once in a while, let their touch bring back memories, and let those memories encourage you to call someone who might also relish your stories.

Story sharing leads to connection.

Does this seem like an odd blog post to appear on the site of an heirloom bookmaker? Maybe, but just maybe not—I hope you are here, after all, because memories matter to you, and because stories and mementos that spark reminiscence lead to genuine connection.

The books I create are meant to be revisited often, to become a living heirloom that encourages interaction. That compels readers to say, “Remember when…” and “That’s just like the time….” That inspires them to relate, and to share their own stories.

So, happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours—may you give and receive genuine affections that are one day looked back on fondly!