The 14th of February, a day when it is traditional to send a card, often anonymously, to a person one is romantically involved with or attracted to. A day which generates millions in sales of cards, flowers, chocolates, and gifts. A day that has a long history dating back to the Romans, with little sight of cards or chocolates, but is now a day celebrated in countries worldwide. In some Latin American countries, Valentine’s Day is known as “el día de los enamorados” (day of lovers).
In the United States, about 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, not including the hundreds of millions of cards school children exchange. Across Ireland and Europe sales of cards, flowers and chocolates rise similarly. But some countries take a different approach to Valentine’s Day; take Slovenia for example, where Saint Valentine or ‘Zdravko’ was one of the saints of spring, the saint of good health and the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims. A Slovenian proverb says that “Saint Valentine brings the keys of roots”, plants and flowers start to grown on this day.
So what does Valentine’s Day actually mean to children? This is a question we may ask, and down through the years we have seen and maybe even been part of rolling out adult-led craft based activities to young children, in the hope of introducing the children to the colour red. Perhaps even encouraging children to get ‘creative’, by painting red love hearts, making cards, sticking and gluing, and baking heart shaped cookies.
Which prompted me to ask some pre-school children about what Valentine’s Day means for them; below are the comments from some of the children in FairyFolk, Kilkenny:
“It’s where everyone gives something to everybody, like a vase or some flowers or some chocolate hearts”
“Or some chocolate cake”
“Where you give your mother something nice, like a picture or a card”
“It’s when you tell everyone that you love them”.
As you can see Valentine’s Day has some collective meanings for these children, but also some ambiguities! And like every year on the 14th February, this day comes and goes and children take home different messages, a lot of them about love and friendship, which is not a bad thing at all. Apart from that, the 15th February arrives and children have little to remember of the day before, except possible sightings of flowers, cards, or chocolates.
So perhaps this year, we might look to Slovenia’s take on Valentine’s Day, and mark this day with the planting of some seasonal herbs, like Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Flowers like Cyclamen, Helebores and winter pansies or spring and summer flowering bulbs. Children could enjoy the experience of loving and caring for their herbs and flowers for most of the year. Watching them grow and bloom, welcoming spring with all their hearts! This would be a day to remember and love hearts could adorn the pots and planters…and friendships could blossom among the children as they tend to their herbs and flowers!
What are you doing for the 14th February in your setting, we would love to hear from you and perhaps the children?