52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Valentines

Little kids have a lot of energy. When I was little, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas in the classroom. As a holiday approached, the excitement would build in our classrooms. Somehow teachers controlled the energy level. In those days, if we did not behave, there would be hell to pay at home.

When I was in grade school, Valentine’s Day was my favorite day. Halloween was a close second. We would go to the five and dime to buy a few packets of valentines. They were always corny but cute. It was so much fun covering a shoebox with the crepe paper, cutting out hearts, and gluing them on the box. It would take me a long time to make the prettiest box possible. I cut a slot in the top of the box for the valentines my classmates would give me that day. We had to give a valentine to every one of our classmates; we could not leave anyone out. I remember writing my name on the back of each valentine and placing them into an envelope.

50s Vintage Valentine, Public Domain Courtesy of OldDesignShop.com

On that exciting day, we would carefully carry our box to school. Most of us walked in those days. Our teacher carved out a time from her lessons, usually late in the afternoon, so that we could celebrate the day. Room mothers made cupcakes decorated with pink or red frosting to add to the festivities. The prettily-decorated mailboxes were placed in a row on a class table so that we could deposit our Valentines in them. We would retrieve our boxes, take them back to our desk, and open our valentines. When we left the classroom, the teachers most likely let out of sigh of relief that the day was over. For days afterward, I would get out my decorated box and look through the Valentines I received.

I came down with the measles in first grade. In those days, people took extreme measures to control the spread of measles. These measures included confinement of the person with spots. I was in quarantine for two weeks. Doctors believed your eyes would be affected by sunlight when you had measles leading to the covering of windows to block out the light. Fortunately, while I did not feel well, I had a light case of measles and did not suffer much. However, can you imagine lying in bed for two weeks in the dark, having your meals brought to you, and doing little or nothing? I was very bored.  And the worst was that Valentine’s Day happened to fall during the period of my isolation. There was no party, but there were valentines for me to write my name on the back. My mother made a box and took my valentines to school. Out of all the Valentine’s Day celebrations, I remember this one the most. Those little Valentines meant a lot to me and brightened what was otherwise a difficult time.

Currently, some teachers celebrate Valentine’s Day with a friendship celebration. Children still pass out valentines and make boxes to collect them in. They plan games and crafts around the theme. Like so many activities, the Covid virus will impact how kids celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.

Victorian Valentine, Public Domain Courtesy of vintageholidaycrafts.com

Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. By the 1840s, mass-produced valentines appeared in the marketplace. [1] Today we celebrate the day of love by giving cards, candy, and flowers, not only to lovers but to family and friends. The excitement I felt for Valentine’s Day in my early years has waned, but I still enjoy the flowers my husband gives me each year.

The theme this week for 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks is Valentines.


[1] https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

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