Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Valentine’s Day? Bah, Humbug!

on February 13, 2014

It is February 13, and, yet again, I have not bought those silly, pre-printed Valentines. When my children were in elementary school, I did buy them. It was required.

I’d watch other children walk to school clutching red-heart-decorated shoe and boot boxes to collect the cards and treats. I  supervised reluctant card-signing.

Phony Baloney

Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs (none of whom are known for love or romance). It was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD, and was deleted from the General Roman Calendar in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

The roots of St. Valentine’s Day may lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated February 13 – 15. Priests of the festival whipped bystanders.  Being touched by the whip was supposed to increase fertility in women.

What exactly are we celebrating?

I understand that contemporary Valentine’s celebrations in school are not about Christian saints or Roman holidays.  I understand (sort-of) that they are supposed to be fun. But what are we teaching? How do children who are socially inept, bullied, or shy experience this holiday?

Same, Same!  Cards for Everybody!

Children are required to give a card to each child in their class, so that no one feels left out. But kids know who likes them and who doesn’t. They know whom they like. They know when they are giving cards because they have to, versus giving cards they want to.

Teaching children to be kind and considerate to all of their classmates is a valuable lesson.  Teaching them to treat everyone the same, is not.

All children do not all wish to be treated the same. When sad, one child might like a hug, another to talk it out, a third would prefer to be left alone. Some children show their excitement with high-fives and shouts, others flick their fingers or flap their hands.

And a Little Red Dye #40

Almost half of my children’s classrooms have been peanut free. One was latex free. Our homeschool group avoided eggs because one family had life-threatening allergies. But artificial colors and flavors have been allowed in all classrooms. (Except at the Waldorf school. But that’s a separate, otherwise awful story.)

The UK banned artificial food dyes in 2008 after a study suggested they are related to hyperactive behavior in children. The UK demands that manufacturers use natural colors and flavors and US companies use natural products in the UK — while continuing to use artificial dyes in the products sold in the US.  (Learn more from Deborah Merlin, author of Victory over ADHD.)

My daughter was severely affected by red food coloring as a child.  Now, she avoids fake-red foods saying, “It makes me crazy.”

Bah, Humbug!


[huhm-buhg] interjection, noun
1.  something intended to delude or deceive.
4.   something devoid of sense or meaning; nonsense
  • I wonder what would happen if, in lieu of pre-printed, generic cards, we asked each child to think of one thing they admire about each classmate.
  • I wonder if the children would be surprised to discover that there really is something good about every person in the room, even in those children they don’t like.
  • I wonder how it would feel to receive 20-some pieces of paper that showed us the wonderfulness our classmates found in us.

What would you have the schools do in place of the humbug that is Valentine’s Day?


I am now homeschooling my only remaining elementary school-aged child and am thrilled to announce that I did not buy cards or candy for Valentine’s Day this year.


4 responses to “Valentine’s Day? Bah, Humbug!

  1. Samantha says:

    Well, you got me thinking. I was terribly bullied as a child, it lasted years. And I must say I loved Valentine’s Day. I did not ever have trouble on that day. Sure, I knew who my few friends were, but that day, we were all classmates. Though children do bring Valentine’s to school, if you wanted to hand-make them that is totally ok, Most people don’t because of the time involved. I just can’t imagine anyone saying anything about it at our school. I love the idea of each kid saying something they admire about their classmates. However, if that’s mandatory, it’s like the Valentines. I do think that would be awesome, though. This year our youngest took the time to write a little note to each child on his store-bought Valentine’s, and he was so proud. He said he wanted everyone to have something special. We also enjoy making Valentine’s boxes together, it’s a tradition we look forward to, though these days I mostly advise and assist with the tricky stuff. I guess our enjoyment of Valentine’s Day goes back to my childhood. My parents always did a little something special for us on Valentine’s Day, and we exchanged cards, as well. My Grandma and I made Valentine’s together, and before she passed, she gave me her Valentine-making box, which I have used with my kids. So it’s a warm, happy day for us. But the wonderful thing about life is all the different perspectives in it. I am glad to have you out here, advocating for intentional and meaningful interaction, safe from harmful chemicals that we in the states all too often take for granted as being ok. Thank you for thinking so much about what we do, and for advocating for those of us who are often misunderstood or overlooked. I won’t wish you a happy Valentine’s day, but I do wish you and yours much love.

  2. Alyssa says:

    This year, my daughter’s teacher gave each child 24 slips of paper so they could write something nice about each kid in their class. (Some brought their own from home as well- my daughter drew a Minecraft scene that I scanned and created a card for her to print and cut out.) I love that her teacher did that. My daughter loves Valentine’s Day, but I understand and agree with your point of view as well.

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