Our Austrian Valentine’s Days

Growing up, I was never a big Valentine’s Day person.  As a little kid, I liked making the “mailboxes” to collect our Valentines at school, but being a perfectionist, it never quite turned out the way I wanted.  As a teenager, I was a perennially grouchy person on Valentine’s Days, because I was always full of unrequited affection for someone or another.  Then, as a young adult, even when I was coupled up mid-February, I never quite lost my vestigial semi-bitterness and residual disdain for Valentine’s Day.

Like so many things, I didn’t really start to like it until I was a parent, and then only because I made a choice and an intellectual effort to not pass on this anti-Valentine’s issue to my kids.

ValentineSince becoming a mom, I’ve been completely turned around on Valentine’s Day.  I actually quite like it now.  Since Benjamin’s very first Valentine’s Day, I’ve done a little something for the kids each year — a card, some decorations, or maybe a special treat.  Nothing major, just something fun and little to mark the day and say “I love you.”  I love doing it for them, and I love seeing them look forward to these little things, and then, by extension, to see them look for sweet little kindnesses to do for us or for each other on Valentine’s Day.  They always do.  They draw pictures for us or for each other, share their special treats, give extra hugs and kisses, share their toys with more willingness.  It’s truly heartwarming, and has completely won me over.

Beyond that, though, Valentine’s Day is not really a children’s holiday here.  There are no school parties, no heart shaped cookies, no glittery Valentines handed out, no paper hearts on the walls or windows, no classrooms full of kids wearing red and pink.  Absolutely none of it.  Adults celebrate Valentine’s Day here — with flowers, chocolates or a dinner out — but it’s really only for grown ups (and even then, not a particularly big deal).  My guys were dressed in red for school today, but if anyone else was, it was purely a coincidence.  I suspect that will be a bit of culture shock for my boys when we move home — the concept of celebrating Valentine’s Day at school will be weird to them, I expect (much how they feel about dressing up for Halloween at school — when I mentioned that tradition to them the other day, they reacted with skepticism and surprise).

But, as much as all of that would be (and will be) sweet, I’m ok with the way things are here.  Valentine’s Day here is very nearly (as far as my kids know) something that only our family does.  Our traditions shape the whole of their idea of the day.  They see Daddy bring flowers for Mommy, so they want to bring me some, too.  They look forward to their homemade cards in the morning, and they draw us hearts and pictures at school.  They come home to fresh cookies, and they share them with each other.  We all get lots of extra hugs and kisses today, because it’s Valentine’s Day.  And I’m very happy about all of it.

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