Before we moved I had the impression that in America all of the ‘holidays’ would be bigger than in the UK but, I have to say, I didn’t necessarily think they would be better – at least not to my British sense of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I have already blogged about how we had a Surprisingly Happy Halloween and our First American Christmas really won us over. However, when it came to Valentine’s Day, I got the sense from movies and TV (where else would I get my information?!) that it was all going to be a little over the top for us.
Maybe I should set the scene in terms how my husband and I usually celebrate Valentine’s and generally how it is approached in the UK… My husband and I usually mark it in some small way, like we will cook a nice meal or order a takeaway to enjoy once the kids are in bed, and we do usually buy each other a card. But that’s about it. We agreed long ago not to buy special presents for Valentine’s – we kind of feel like we don’t need a special day to say that we love each other and there are just better things to spend our money on. That might seem cold-hearted and I know that there are other people who go all out on V-day in the UK, which is obviously fine too! Each to their own, as they say.
In fact, the only recent Valentine’s Day that I can remember getting something special was 2018 and Hubby was deployed for the first 6 months of that year. By Valentine’s he had been away around a month and the kids and I are were both finding it pretty tough by then. That year he sent a big bunch of flowers to me, and some heart-shaped helium balloons for the kids. As you can imagine, they were a big hit!
The other important thing to mention is that in the UK the love that is ‘celebrated’ on Valentine’s is usually just the love between romantic partners. So if you are part of a couple, or you would like to be and just haven’t made that first move yet, Valentine’s Day is for you. That is all well and good for those that are ‘feeling the love’ but this leaves a large part of the population out. It can make those that are single on that one day of the year suddenly and acutely aware of that fact. Maybe they are perfectly happy being single so it makes no difference but there are definitely some who would like to have a partner and don’t. For them Valentine’s Day can seem painful and cruel. I know, I’ve been there.
I had heard stories that in America they would give Valentine’s cards to teachers, parents, friends, etc and to me it felt just…well…weird. When I heard that there was an expectation that my kids would give Valentines to ALL of the kids in their classes, I had to admit, I rolled my eyes. As I helped my daughter write out the names of all of her friends, I just thought it was a lot of work and was a bit pointless, but obviously I went along with it for her sake.
However, as I was putting all of the Valentine’s gifts (because it isn’t just a card, they give a token gift like candy/stickers etc) together, I stopped to properly think about it. I realised that I had this American version of Valentine’s all wrong. It isn’t actually over the top, what it is is more inclusive. The ‘love’ that is celebrated comes in so many different forms than the one that we would usually recognise in the UK. Here, they also celebrate the type of love you have for your friends, for your family, for your teachers etc. It is about letting someone know that you care and that you appreciate them being in your life. I mean really, who can argue with that?!
That kind of celebration is going to include a much wider group of people than the version I have grown up with. It doesn’t leave so many people feeling lonely and/or alone because even if you are single you are much more likely to have some kind of love in your life, even if it isn’t with a romantic partner. You can love and be loved by various people in different ways and let them know that you care too.
So, although my husband and I haven’t particularly changed how we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I am much more open to the concept of ‘celebrating’ love, in all its forms. I used to see Valentine’s as just another day but now I can see it as a ‘holiday’ like they do here and I enjoy getting the kids excited about it too.
As The Beatles once said, ‘All you need is love, love, love is all you need.’ They were right.
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