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People celebrate all types of love—romantic, familial, friendly —on February 14, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day. Writer Catherine Huthnance explains how Americans show their affection on this special day.
Text: Catherine Huthnance
Country: USA

Valentine’s Day is recognized all around the world as a celebration of love in romance and in friendship. In some places it is called the day of love and friendship. In almost all countries Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14. It is not considered an official public holiday as all businesses, schools, and government offices remain open. As with most holidays, it has evolved from different religious and pagan festivals into the fun social event that it is today. The name is attributed to one or more of the many saints and martyrs named Valentine, and started representing love and romance during the 14th century.

In the United States, Valentine’s Day has become a huge commercial occasion. In the past, people would write love notes or make their own Valentine’s cards for a special someone, maybe even anonymously if they weren’t yet in a relationship. Now that it is common to give cards and treats to all of one’s friends, it would be impossible to make enough cards without going to the store and buying preprinted Valentines. This has especially become the case among children who are expected to give all of their classmates a card so no one is excluded.

Children usually celebrate their friendship with each other in group settings at school. Everyone takes treats like heart- shaped cookies, cupcakes with pink frosting, and little candy hearts with messages like “Be mine.” They create little mailboxes out of shoeboxes or paper bags with cute stickers and drawings of hearts, flowers and ladybugs. Then each student walks around delivering his or her Valentines. Nowadays those are usually purchased, preprinted little cards with themes of whatever character is popular at the time like Disney princesses or superheroes. Many of them include small candies such as lollipops and chocolate kisses. A few people create homemade cards out of construction paper, tissue, and lace doilies. Of course, the most common colors representing love are pink and red. Even the teachers get and give cards. It is a nice way to get the children to appreciate their friendships, but unless the teachers make that a big point, it becomes an excuse for just another party. Sasha Duncan, from Suwanee, Georgia, remembers, “When I learned to write my name I was very excited to sign every single Valentine card for my preschool friends. My mom helped me write a few every night so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I felt so important!”

In the older grades, some of the student organizations see Valentine’s Day as a fundraising opportunity. They sell flowers, balloons, and heart-shaped cards at a low cost to their peers. These items are delivered during lunchtime so as not to interrupt academic classes. It is very exciting as everyone waits in eager anticipation wondering if they will be surprised by a Valentine. Perhaps they have an unexpected secret admirer? It is exciting as well to see the reaction of the person you have sent a gift to. Even the smallest expression of friendship is appreciated.

Adult Love

Many couples like to take the opportunity of Valentine’s Day to celebrate their romance. Gifts of chocolate and flowers are extremely popular and are regularly delivered to the loved one instead of presented in person. Businesses take full advantage of the occasion by raising prices on roses during this time and by creating special heart-shaped flower arrangements, chocolates, and gift boxes. Stuffed bears holding hearts are also common, pink and red lacy lingerie, jewelry, and other expressions of love.

Magazine companies produce special editions with recipes and ideas for decorating and demonstrating love. Most of these ideas are inexpensive and easy to do with items already found at home. Even billboards and other advertising methods can benefit by offering extravagant ways of professing love or proposing marriage. Karen, from Atlanta, Georgia looks forward to her husband’s surprise dinner every year. She says, “As a stay at home mom, Elliott really appreciates that I take care of the shopping, meal planning, and preparation throughout the year. On Valentine’s Day he arranges for a babysitter and plans a special dinner for us. He takes care of the cooking and cleaning so I can relax and enjoy.”

On the weekends before and after February 14, cruise lines and resorts plan romantic getaways for couples, with meals and activities included. Hotels and spas offer special rates on romantic packages, which include massages, love-themed bedrooms, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Restaurants have candlelit dinners with music and gourmet menus. My husband and I have occasionally taken advantage of the hotel packages offered at a winery nearby, as it is a nice opportunity to get away from the children and enjoy the beautiful grounds and delicious dinners. However, we have never seen any benefit in dining out on Valentine’s Day because the prices are higher than normal and the restaurants are crowded. As a result, the wait times and the quality of the food and service are always disappointing. On those evenings, we prefer to have a special romantic dinner at home with our favorite gourmet items.

People who are not in a relationship tend to see Valentine’s Day in one of two ways. Some become jealous of couples and they express their hatred of the holiday. Most people I know choose to celebrate other types of love that are not romantic. Women like to plan a girls’ night out or reach out to their friends and neighbors by giving cards, sharing baked goods or just posting a message by phone or Facebook. It is fun to contact your loved ones and remind them that you appreciate them and equally nice to know that people are thinking of you. Sabrina Hernandez lives in Miami, Florida and shares, “My best friend’s husband travels all of the time so for the past five years we have a standing date on Valentine’s Day. We take turns going to each other’s houses and prepare appetizers together. We drink wine and catch up on our lives. I really look forward to that time together every year.” In modern society it has become popular for single people to join groups of other singles to participate in activities of common interest. These groups also organize Valentine outings and get-togethers. For example, they might have a dance or cooking class, a singles cruise or just a day trip for a hike and picnic in the mountains. In this way they can get to know other people who enjoy their time in the same way and …who knows? They might meet their mate and not be single for very long after that.

As Valentine’s Day has become more commercialized and popular as a celebration for friends and family as well as lovers, it is common to see people decorate as they do for other holidays. When my children were young I took advantage of the entire day to fully express my love and appreciation to them. From the beginning of February, I would put hand towels decorated with hearts in the bathroom and use heart shaped platters and doilies at mealtime. In the morning, for breakfast, we would have pancakes shaped like hearts. For lunch, sandwiches carefully cut out with heart-shaped cookie cutters and in the afternoon heart-shaped brownies. Now that they are older and living away from home, I never miss the opportunity to mail a card expressing my love. Instead of a preprinted message from the greeting card company, I choose to write my own love note, and instead of heart-shaped pancakes, they might be surprised with a gift card to buy gasoline or groceries. That is a much-appreciated Valentine for college students. Sophia, in Denver, Colorado, comments, “I love getting your care packages each year. It is nice to be reminded that you are thinking of me, and my roommates love the homemade cookies. They are such a treat!”

These expressions of love and friendship are only a few of the many ways that Valentine’s is celebrated in the United States as well as around the world. Other countries may see the holiday a bit differently through the eyes of their culture. Even though it has become very commercialized and profitable, the main focus is still to offer a token of appreciation to loved ones. With the technology of today, it is easier than ever to reach out inexpensively to lovers, friends, and family around the world.

Fun Facts

♥ Valentine’s Day is the second largest seasonal card sending time of the year.

♥ Many believe the X symbol (xoxo) became synonymous with the kiss in medieval times. People who couldn’t write their names signed in front of a witness with an X. The X was then kissed to show their sincerity.

♥ In 1537, England’s King Henry VIII officially declared Feb. 14 the holiday of St. Valentine‘s Day.

♥ More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold on Valentine’s Day.

♥ The red rose was the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

♥ Every Valentine’s Day, the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare‘s lovers Romeo and Juliet lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

♥ Teachers will receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets.




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Speaking Love's Many Languages


Valentine's Day is a celebration of love all around the world. In some places it is called the day of love and friendship. Almost all countries celebrate Valentine's Day on February 14. The name comes from one of the many saints and martyrs named Valentine. In the 14th century it started to represent love and romance.

In the United States, Valentine's Day is a huge commercial occasion. In the past people wrote love notes and made their own Valentine's cards. Today it is common to give cards and treats to all of your friends, family, and classmates. So it is more common to buy preprinted Valentine's.

Children usually take treats like heart-shaped cookies, cupcakes with pink frosting, and little candy hearts with messages like "Be mine" to school. A few people create homemade cards out of construction paper, tissue, and lace doilies. Older students use Valentine's Day to raise funds. They sell flowers, balloons, and heart-shaped cards at a low cost to their peers.

The most popular gifts for Valentine's Day are chocolate and flowers. Cruise lines and resorts plan romantic
getaways
for couples. Hotels and spas offer special rates on romantic packages, which include massages, love-themed bedrooms, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Restaurants have candlelit dinners with music and gourmet menus.

Even though it is now very commercialized and profitable, the main focus is still to offer a token of appreciation to loved ones. With the technology of today, it is easier than ever to reach out inexpensively to lovers, friends, and family around the world.

 

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Speaking Love’s Many Languages

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Grammar in Use

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Elementary: Terms of Endearment

Advanced: Idiom: A match made in heaven

Vocabulary

Valentine's

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