By Lillian Browne
The Daily Star
---- — St. Valentine’s Day, commonly known as Valentine’s Day, is observed on Feb. 14 and celebrated in many countries. Though it began as a liturgical celebration, the day became associated with romantic love during the middle ages, when it became traditional to court a potential love interest. Today it is an occasion to express appreciation, friendship, affection and love with greeting cards, chocolates, flowers as well as Cupid-inspired gifts.
Cupid, also popular in the middle ages, is depicted in contemporary times as a chubby boy shooting a bow and arrow to inspire romantic love. Cupid is viewed as an icon of Valentine’s Day and is often depicted with a blindfold, not because he is sightless, but because sometimes love is blind. The etiquette surrounding the day often leaves us, too, groping for the right gift, card or sentiment.
William Shakespeare summed up the confusion in his play “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath love’s mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is love said to be a child
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.”
Today’s culture requires that one uses discerning judgment and gift-giving etiquette on Valentine’s Day.
School parties and exchanges, workplace celebrations and new romantic partners contemplating Valentine’s Day can inspire fear, hope, excitement or dread. There are many modern day “rules” to be followed to be considered socially acceptable.
Valentine’s Day for
If your child chooses to participate in a Valentine’s Day exchange, a valentine, be it a card or candy, should be given to every child in the class. If your child cannot bring himself to give everyone a valentine in class, it is acceptable to mail them to the homes of those selected.
Handmade valentines are an excellent way to help your child express her creativity and develop fine motor skills. Construction paper, glue, scissors, fabric, markers and stickers are just some of the items that can encourage even the youngest child tap into his inner da Vinci. If crafting is not something your child is interested in, a box of cards purchased from a store is perfectly acceptable. Your child, if inclined, can personalize the cards by adding a treat with ribbon or tape.
If your school has a “no candy” policy but is planning a party, consider a healthier alternative such as carrots, raisins or strawberries, or goodies like temporary tattoos, stickers or party favors.
Don’t forget the teacher! There is no reason to go overboard with a teacher valentine. Give a teacher, and an aide or classroom volunteer, the same valentine as fellow students.
In Walton Central Townsend Elementary School, this year’s third-grade classes are making Valentine’s Day boxes from recycled materials to correspond with a reading project focused on saving the Earth’s rain forests. Valentine receptacles can be made from anything recycled — even an old pair of jeans!
The first-grade classes are getting the whole family involved in Valentine’s Day. First-graders are doing a family homework project to strengthen the connection between home and school. The family creates a valentine card holder, using any material they choose, a shoe box, a cereal box, a large can or a basket. The only requirement is that the container must be able to stand on its own. The family is asked to decorate the container together, using their imaginations, choosing a theme.
Valentine’s Day in a Business or Office Setting
Unless you work in a casual environment, it is important to remember that the office is not a classroom and rules for Valentine’s Day gift-giving are very different. If you pass out cards to everyone, it could hurt your reputation. You could be seen as unprofessional, or worse, a brown-noser, both by the boss and co-workers. If you want to do something nice, bring a big box of candy, plate of cookies or chocolate covered strawberries, and place it in an open area for everyone to enjoy. Skip the little heart-shaped candies with suggestive messages printed on them.
Do not send a Valentine’s Day email or message on the company computer. Your employer does not pay you to use company time to send any type of personal emails. An email intended for one person only can easily be forwarded on to others. If anyone who sees the email is offended by it for any reason, complaints could easily follow.
If you are close friends with a co-worker and want to share a card or gift, do so outside of work hours and off-premises. Even then, think it through. Any card or gift that alludes to romance could be considered sexual harassment if it is unwelcome, even if it is given after work hours.
Do not give a card or gift to a subordinate or to a supervisor or boss. The very nature of the holiday is to remind people of romance and love. It is very easy to give the wrong message or misunderstand intentions.
Valentine’s Day for New Romantic Partners
Would-be romance can be filled with awkwardness and apprehension, especially surrounding a holiday that is filled with notions of love. The reality is that today the occasion is one of equal opportunity for men and woman alike to hit or miss. If a romantic dinner is your idea of romance, etiquette says that whoever asks pays. That being said, it is not wrong to offer to chip in, or to agree on whom will pay for dinner before the date.
Say it with flowers. Valentine’s Day is synonymous with roses, which continue to be a time-honored choice. Color speaks volumes; red represents love or passion, while pink, yellow and white all send messages of friendship, admiration, happiness and appreciation. Bonus points are always scored for remembering the recipient’s favorite flower.
Don’t wait until the last minute to select a card. Typically, that is when the selection is whittled down to the ones no one else wanted to buy — for good reason.
This special day does not have to be expensive, or even traditional. Anyone on a budget can plan for a special evening together. A candlelight dinner prepared at home can be very meaningful. Chocolates are within most budgets and can set the tone for romance. It takes only thoughtfulness to write a love note, watch a romantic movie or play “your song” over your favorite dessert or food.
The notion of gift-giving can make anyone’s palms sweat. Emily Post, the self-appointed queen of etiquette says “Before buying any present — think to yourself ‘What would she do with that?’ and if you can’t find the answer to the question, DON’T BUY IT!”