American Valentine’s Day Traditions: Things Every Expat Mum Should Know (or Ignore).

valentine's day traditionsA letter came home from school last week asking us to decorate a shoe box and make a hole large enough to fit a greeting card. My daughter dutifully created her box ready for the school Valentine’s party. I expected the box to come home with a few cards from her closest friends, until  her younger sister came home from pre-school with a bag laden with goodies. Her bag contained lots of little cards with sweets attached from both her teachers and all of the children at pre-school. Had I missed something somewhere? Was there a letter asking us to bring in Valentine’s treats? I think there was an assumption that we would know what to do – now I feel like the mean, lazy parent.

My eldest went off to school today armed with her box. She returned laden with gifts.

American Valentine Traditions

That explains why we were given a letter with the names of all the children in the class. I assumed it was so we would know how to spell a name if we wanted to send a Valentine to a special friend.

If you want to avoid being the odd one out you need to :

  • Send a card to every child in the class
  • Attach a sweet or small gift to the card
  • Sign your child’s name.

Hold on a moment

Isn’t Valentine’s Day meant to be about showing appreciation for those you love or sending a message to someone you admire? Isn’t it about giving not receiving?

My children came home excited about what they had received. There was no sentiment attached to any of the cards, nobody said ‘I’m giving you this because I think you are a great friend.’ It strikes me as another example of greed and an expectation that we load the children with lots of stuff because no child can be left out. I think my 4-year-old got the sentiment right when she decided it would be nice to send a Valentine to the friends she misses from home to tell them she is thinking about them.

I’m sure next year the girls will want to send Valentine’s to the whole class to fit in with their friends. I’d like to think that they will at least find one nice thing to say about each person they give them to. Isn’t it bad enough that adults are driven to spend 4 times the usual price for flowers just in case their partner is offended? Let children believe it is about love and friendship at least for a little while.

14 thoughts on “American Valentine’s Day Traditions: Things Every Expat Mum Should Know (or Ignore).”

  1. Sounds even worse than the dreaded party bags.
    BTW you are now on my Blogroll – finally worked out how to add you.
    Happy Valentines hugs and wishes from Portishead x – Oh and that message is just for you an yours – not the whole class x


  2. It sounds like yet another American “no child can be left out” thing. At my sister’s children’s school they will not pass on party invitations unless the whole class is invited. Thank goodness in the UK we’re still allowed to have opinions and make our own choices.


  3. oh dear, seems like another ‘chewing gum’ incident of US schools getting it soooooooooo wrong! and you still have school sports day to come! maybe every child will be given a ‘I came first’ sticker !!!!!!!!


  4. I have fond memories of parties in elementary school for these holidays, decorating the shoebox and handing out the little cards to my classmates (saving the cutest ones for my closes friends, of course)! I don’t recall ever feeling pressured to give something to everyone, so either we didn’t or we did and it wasn’t a big deal. But of course that was many years ago and either a) things have changed or b) my memory has faded or c) all of the above (the most likely option!).

    I think it’s interestng to read about people’s experiences in the States now because I have a parent’s perpective and because I’ve lived in the UK for so long. Of course, just like the UK, everyone’s experience varies widely acoss the States so I read each story in conext of that person’s experience, but they’re all interesting just the same!


    1. Thanks Michelle. I think you are probably right, the kids don’t feel the pressure it’s the parents that feel pressurized to conform. Maybe I should leave it up to the kids to decide. I think the thing I disliked was how impersonal it all was, I’d like them to consider why they are giving. Thanks so much for your insightful response.


  5. I remember my mother telling me that every child in my class deserved a Valentine because they were my classmates, people I spent every day with, and were worthy of respect and acknowledgement. She made sure I had a Valentine for each child, though I got to assign them, so John Wynn (my nemesis) got the skunk. I remember one child did not get many Valentines, and her sadness of being left out was horrible. I remember this almost 40 years later – quite the life lesson. Please put aside your ideas of Cosmic Rightness, the Unfairness of Being Made to Conform, and the Horror of Commercialism for one day. No one says you have to attach candy or a gift (I never do). Stop feeling like other parents are judging your Valentines. We aren’t. No one cares except the kids. And the ones that don’t get many Valentines care the most.


    1. thanks for commenting. Clearly there are strong cultural differences between Valentines in the UK and US. In the UK Valentines day is for lovers or to tell someone you admire them. Valentines are meant to be anonymous so you know someone cares about you but dont know who. Children make Valentine cards at school and usually give them to parents. I sympathise with those children who may be left out but what i dislike is the complete lack of sentiment behind what is given out. I am not sure what is so special about receiving a piece of paper with someones name on. i just wish each one would say ‘ I like you because ….’


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