The Only Thing More Awkward Than Valentine’s Day Is The Fact We Make Kids Celebrate It

108312638Valentine’s Day; either I surround myself with people who are very pragmatic, or pretty much everyone believes this holiday is stupid. I don’t hate it per se, it’s just a day that I have always found awkward. Always. Thanks to our insistence that grade schoolers celebrate it – the awkwardness starts early. As this is something I would like to spare my children, I’m hoping we will eventually stop forcing students to celebrate a holiday that nobody really likes anyway.

Every year there seems to be yet another school banning candy – but they are really going the wrong route. Candy is seriously the only enjoyable thing about this holiday. I’d be happier if they just straight-up banned forcing our children to pass hearts and doves to every, single person in class. What are we celebrating? The history of this day is muddled at best – and pretty horrifying at worst:

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

Pretty interesting, huh kids?

I guess elementary school may actually have been the most benign of my early experiences with Valentine’s Day. We would decorate a lunch bag, tape it to our desks and everyone would pass cards around. We were instructed to make one for the entire class, so it’s not like anyone ever really felt special. But there was candy – which makes everything worthwhile when you are seven.

Middle school was next – the pinnacle of “the awkward years.” Valentines were no longer required, so you got to add a little rejection to your already crippled self-esteem. Great idea! My school had this weird carnation delivery ritual. On Valentine’s Day, a messenger would come into the room with a basket of carnations and everyone would sit there staring at it. One-by-one, the carnations would be delivered and half of the class would be beaming while the rest sat there, dejected. Fun!

High school took Valentine’s Day rejection to the next level, as you watched all your classmates who already had boyfriends get bouquets of flowers and wrapped gifts brought to them. I never had a boyfriend in high school (a trend I’m hoping will continue with my kids), so I was never one of the beaming girls in the hall. I have always had amazing friends though, and we lessened the blow by bringing each other stuff.

Can we all just agree this day is just a Hallmark holiday at best – and a depressing reminder that no one is bringing you stuff at worst? I’m not really sure why this is a holiday at all – but I’m really confused as to why we make our kids celebrate it.

(photo: Getty Images)

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You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • CMJ

    I know technically it was a different holiday BUT:

    • Maria Guido


  • Tea

    The carnation ritual just gave me middle school flashbacks. I always secretly bought one for myself, but I’m pretty sure everyone knew anyway. The only one I ever got as a gift was from my gay best friend, and I was actually kind of grateful because that meant I had two.

    Now I need gin. Thanks Maria.

    • Maria Guido

      Sorry. But it’s sooo terrible. Who thought of that idea?

    • Tea

      I kid you not, Our school sold them for the Optimists club. The irony just punched me in the liver.

    • SarahJesness

      Your school had an Optimists club? What?

    • Tea!our-mission

      I was never a member, since I thought you needed to be optimistic to join. It looks like it’s being cheerful mixed with community service.

    • SarahJesness

      Sounds kind of dumb. No offense to anyone who likes these things.

  • allisonjayne

    Oh gosh I hate how my school did that. Ours happened in high school, not elementary (I went to a K-8 so there was no middle school) and I get that it was a fundraiser for something (student council I guess?) but ugh.

    Then my school had another brilliant fundraising idea and they started selling ‘compatibility tests’…you would pay them $5 or whatever it was and then fill out some dumb quiz a few weeks before valentine’s day, then on the big day everyone who did it would get a print-out from whatever shitty computer program they were using to do this and it would tell you your top ten best and worst matches (hetero only, even though I went to an arts high school). It was even worse than the roses and of course more girls did it than dudes and half the dudes that did do it would treat it like the joke it was and answer the questions in the worst way possible.

    Thanks for the terrible memories Maria, yeesh. Seriously though, I’m with you, this non-holiday is pointless at best.

    • Maria Guido

      Oh my God!!!! That is something I never would have remembered – we had those too! How weird is that?

    • lizinthelibrary

      We had the compatibility tests and the carnation flower sales in high school. Except the carnations were delivered every period so you got rejected 7 times a day. AWESOME. Plus super disruptive to our education. Most of my girl friends would buy them for each other so you didn’t get nothing, but you still knew. And they were a fundraiser for whatever, student council, so those kids got to stay out of class for hours at a time delivering them.

  • TheGiantPeach

    I loved Valentine’s Day as an elementary school kid. Back then, it was just an excuse to eat candy and have a party and see who had the coolest Valentines (it was never me, my mom always made me get the lamest ones possible). Now I barely even notice when Valentine’s Day is, and I usually only remember when my husband presents me with a heart-shaped box of candy and I feel bad because I didn’t get him anything. I do share my candy with him though.

  • Robotic Arms Dealer

    I’m calling Maria the Valentine’s Day Grouch


  • Lindsay

    In my preschool classroom, we call it “hug day”- just a lot of going on about loving our friends and treating each other nicely and hug your friends yayyyyyy kumbaya. No one is required to bring any valentines, but everyone is required to treat other people nicely.

    Plus the kids bring me candy, so I’m all in.

    • Ddaisy

      That is super cute!!!

  • chickadee

    O god. Our junior high had Val-o-grams (which, cool name, bro) that were delivered in each. and every. class. all. day. long. It was the worst. Six individual opportunities to feel like a skinny, boobless loser.

    Good thing I have a beer next to me.

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    I remember this sucked so hard as a kid. Now, it seems as though the school district I work for has strategically picked V-Day as a teacher inservice day the last few years. It doesn’t get rid of the classroom parties (they’re just a day earlier), but it HAS successfully stopped the flower/balloon delivery bullshit that makes kids feel like shit. So I love it.

  • ElleJai

    We didn’t have this stuff in school, but one year my dad felt bad for me when I was about 15 and sent me an anonymous card. It took me years to work out it was him, although I knew it was a sympathy card and it drove me nuts.

    At least he tried lol.

  • gretta

    YES ABOUT THE STUPID CARNATIONS!! AND MY SON’S ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DOES IT!!!!!! Why is my SEVEN year old asking me why some kids get a Valentine’s pencil (instead of flowers at this school ) and some don’t??? I think that particular “fund raiser” is put on by former “beaming”mean girls.