By Holly Richardson

holly richardson author pic

We are approaching Valentine’s Day but this column is not about romantic ideas on how to celebrate with your spouse. I’ll let you figure that out. Rather, it’s about celebrating with your family and how traditions bind us together. 

Meg Cox, author of “The Book of New Family Traditions” describes traditions as “any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.” Traditions, therefore, are not just repeated routines or habits, but are done intentionally. (Although it might be nice if washing dishes or folding laundry became a tradition.)

Traditions provide a source of shared identity, something that is especially important in “non-traditional” families like ours.

I think too often we take traditions for granted or dismiss them too easily, but they are a fundamental part of a strong family life. Traditions provide a source of shared identity, something that is especially important in “non-traditional” families like ours. Telling and re-telling family lore, like the one about the “macaroni and cheese sandwich” or the vacation from you-know-where that is now funny in the re-telling serve as a way to see yourself as part of a bigger whole. 

Khalil Gibran said, “Next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” It’s how we make sense of our world, from macro to micro. When it comes to families, it’s the glue that binds. Stories and traditions go together like, well, macaroni and cheese. 

We have a long-standing tradition in our family to do a “pink food” day (luckily, we don’t have red food dye allergies). For us, that means meatloaf (with “pink” barbecue sauce on top), pink mashed potatoes, pink rolls, red Jell-O and/or pink fluff. Often, it also includes heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink frosting and red-hot cinnamon candies. Dinner also includes everyone at the table having an opportunity to hear what other family members love about them.

Other fun food ideas can include heart-shaped pizza, heart-shaped pancakes, heart-shaped doughnuts, heart-shaped sandwiches, using strawberries in a variety of foods, raspberry sherbet “floats,” kabobs with strawberries, blueberries and bananas and even strawberry milk.

There are so many other fun possible traditions for Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Write a letter (or letters) of appreciation. Be as specific as possible. “I love the way you fix breakfast every Saturday morning” or “I love seeing the world through your photographs.”
  • Make homemade Valentine’s. Remember the red and pink construction paper with paper lace doilies? Let your kids — of all ages — go crazy with making those simple cards. If your loved ones are older, have a contest for the “punniest” cards.
  • Tuck paper hearts into backpacks, lunch boxes and coat pockets for your loved ones to find throughout the day.
  • Have a picnic on the floor. Spread out a blanket and eat from paper plates while watching a cheesy romantic comedy.
  • Learn your loved ones’ “Love Language.” The five kinds identified by Gary Chapman are: “Words of Affirmation,” “Acts of Service,” “Receiving Gifts,” “Quality Time” and “Physical Touch.” Show love through their primary language. For example, “Receiving Gifts” is my forth or fifth love language, so buying me roses the day after Valentine’s is just fine. But if that’s your primary love language, waiting until February 15 will likely not go over well.
  • Play games with your family and friends. Pin the Heart on Cupid and Hide and Seek with heart-shaped bean bags can be fun with little ones. Get-to-know-you games like “What if” and “Apples to Apples” can be fun with older participants.
  • Read “love” books. One of my favorites is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. It makes me cry every time I read it, even after more than twenty years. I quote it to my eight-year-old when she asks if I will love her when she’s big.

“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”

Love You Forever
  • You could also frame a favorite candid photo of your loved one and give it to them with a note about why you love them and why you love that particular memory.
  • Send a love letter through the U.S. Mail. That’s a rare enough event these days that it is sure to make a splash.
  • If you have some extra time, create a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt. Create clues that take them around the house to find a treat, or create an indoor/outdoor scavenger hunt that takes them around your yard and through your house — or Grandma’s house.
  • Even though Necco is no longer making conversation hearts, other candy companies have stepped in to fill the gap. Use those conversation hearts to create Bingo cards and play Heart Bingo. Or, use them as actual conversation starters. I know of a couple who got engaged sooner than he was expecting to pop the question because instead of handing his girlfriend a “Kiss Me” heart, he unknowingly handed her a “Marry Me” heart. True story.
  • Buy a dozen (or two) roses at Costco or somewhere else where you won’t break the bank and then take your kids to a public location and give roses out to people. Maybe it’s the mom with two kids in a stroller, or the older couple using walkers, or the young people holding hands. Or, deliver them anonymously.

Helen Keller said “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Here is to a heart-felt Valentine’s Day.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.