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Tuesday, February 1, 2022

"Valentine's Day is a Homemade Holiday, Really"

homemade holidays
hearts that I cut from red paper, using glue dots to attach to the inside of the kitchen windows-
-a fraction of the cost of commercial window decorations

Those were the words said to me by my daughter earlier today when we took a walk around the neighborhood and talked about this new month. Many people say that Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday, created and driven by storekeepers, florists, and greeting card companies. My family has historically taken a homemade approach to the holiday.

February 13, in the year my mother was 8 years old, my grandmother sat on the edge of my mother's bed, tucking her in for the night. After her bedtime prayers, my mother blurted out, "oh, by the way, I need Valentine cards for each of my classmates tomorrow." As moms, haven't we all had one of the these moments when our child informs us at the very last moment that they need a special X,Y, or Z for school tomorrow? (Mine was a princess costume for the 3rd grade play.)

After a moment of "ackkkkk!" my grandmother finished tucking my mother in and put her mind to creating some Valentine cards. As you would guess, this was back in a time when stores closed at 5 PM, so there would be no thought to purchasing cards. Even so, this was also during the Great Depression. Purchased cards for an entire class of schoolchildren would have been prohibitively expensive for my grandparents' budget. One thing my grandmother did have was oodles of creativity and supplies to match.

Friends of my grandparents owned a shop in town and had gifted my grandmother with their outdated wallpaper sample books. I'm not sure what my grandmother did with these books, but they came in handy this winter night. My grandmother stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, clipping and snipping the floral pages into fanciful shapes. At breakfast, my mother signed each lovely handmade Valentine. To my grandmother's satisfaction, my mother exclaimed upon returning home from school that her Valentine cards were the prettiest of the class. 

My own mother carried on a tradition of homemade holiday decorations, making cards with us when we were children, and handcrafting gifts. Perhaps this is where I get my own inspirations for creating holidays "from scratch" and now share with my own children. So, it's no wonder that my daughter would say that Valentine's Day is a homemade holiday. It's a legacy that was passed from my grandmother to my mother, to me, and now on to my own children.

Happy February, everybody!


  1. Good morning Lili! Thank you for sharing that beautiful story. It encouraged me as well. I have always thrifted a few items here or there for Valentine's day and saved bits of items that I thought may work as well. I have less than $5.00 in tiny items and the majority of them can be used in Christmas decor as well. Your hearts in the window are so cute! I hope that you have a wonderful week. Lona P

    1. Hi Lona,
      Thank you.
      You're right about finding good holiday decor at thrift stores (and yard sales, I might add). And double yes to using some of the Christmas items (red, white and silver decor) for Valentine's Day! I'm putting together a Valentine-themed flower pot for the kitchen door this week, using some of the same artificial flowers I use on the porch for Christmas and 4th of July (the red and white ones).
      Have a great week, Lona!

  2. What a lovely family story. It is evident that the artistic gene is being passed from generation to generation as well as creative resourcefulness.

    There are so many holiday things available in the stores everywhere that it is easy to make every holiday a commercial one. And with more people in the work force, there seem to be plenty of customers for this merchandise because of both lack of time and more money than there were in decades past.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Thank you. This was one of my favorite stories my mother related to me when I was a child. I have such a vivid picture in my mind of my grandmother sitting at the kitchen table snipping the floral wallpaper samples into shapes.

      Yes, you're right -- there wouldn't be so much commercial holiday merchandise in stores if there wasn't a market for it all. I'm just here, living outside the box and showing a small fraction of the possibilities for thrifty but fun holidays.

      Enjoy your week, Live and Learn!

  3. I bet those valentines were beautiful. I'm glad my kids are beyond the card exchanges in school stage. The expectations seem to be amped up--not only were you expected to give a card, but included with the card would be a small item such as candy, stickers, or pencils. I was the mom who would buy valentines after they went on sale and would pull them out the following year. :) I'm sure there are families out there who struggle to be able to afford valentines and who may not have the time/know-how to create them.

    What things do you do as a family/couple for Valentine's day? My husband and I avoid restaurants since we think they are overcrowded on holidays like that. He usually gets me flowers and I bake him a pie. Not very interesting but heartfelt. I've always given the kids a small box of chocolates with their valentine but this year I may mail my son cookies instead. He seems to have a lot of access to candy (other family members send that to him) and I know he misses home-baked goods.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Smart mom you were/are to buy clearance cards and save till the next year! That's such a shame there is now so much pressure to buy not just the cards, but stuff for each classmate. I agree that there are some families, especially right now with the economy the way it is, who have to choose between their children feeling left out because they can't afford to buy trinkets or candy for every classmate, or having enough for basic needs. When your income is drastically cut or inflation outpaces any income growth, every dollar matters.

      We avoid restaurants on holidays like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, too, due to crowds. I make a batch of heart-shaped pancakes the evening before and leave them in an airtight container on the counter for every family member to help themselves in the morning. I used to get up before anyone else and make the heart-shaped pancakes on Valentine's Day, but my gift to myself these days is to sleep a little later and let the family help themselves to the pancakes made the day before. In addition to pancakes, I carry on a tradition my mother began, and the Valentine dog leaves a small gift for each person.

      I think your son would really appreciate the home-baked cookies in place of candy. The cookies would be a little piece of "home" for your son.

      Have a wonderful week, Kris!


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