5 ways Valentine's Day has changed since we were kids

From our obsession with Pinterest-worthy DIY valentines to the obligatory date night, Emma Waverman dishes on the not-so-lovely ways we now celebrate Valentine's Day.

valentines-day-then-and-now Photo: iStockphoto

I think Pinterest broke Valentine’s Day. Or maybe it was just the final straw in a post-Martha world that created a holiday behemoth from what once was a minor somewhat-irritating holiday. Don’t get me wrong—I love my kids, I love their friends, they love their friends and I love my husband (most days). But I don’t need a picture-perfect Valentine’s Day to know the power of love in my life.

So what happened? Where did things go wrong with this lovey-dovey day? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and compare what Valentine’s Day used to look like with what it’s become.

Valentine’s Day cards

Then: Your mother bought a box of cards featuring Scooby-Doo, Aaron Carter, Star Wars, Snoopy or whatever floated your boat in those days. Or maybe you just used the ones that came with your McDonald’s Happy Meal, or with the tube of Pillsbury cookie dough. You ripped out the perforated pages and filled in the blanks with your favourite classmates’ names, your crush and maybe your teacher. That’s it.


Now: The good parents start planning the Valentine’s Day cards weeks in advance. The hours spent scouring Pinterest results in bursts of optimism, followed by despair. Once the theme is decided upon, all resources are gathered to see the project to fruition. Is this the year that makes the 3D printer a worthwhile investment?


For children whose artistic abilities aren’t quite up to social media standards, there will be lots of parental intervention masquerading as helpful tips. The nights leading up to Valentine’s Day will be filled with hard work, tears, glitter bombs and finally the triumphant feeling of having 23 valentines that adequately reflect your child’s incredible personality and talents. The paper cuts will be worth it, and you will win Facebook!

But woe to the bad parent (myself included) who realizes a few days before the big day that she had done nothing to ensure her children’s popularity—or her own Instagram success—with perfect Valentine’s Day cards. The last-minute run to the drugstore will be useless. The craft store clerk will laugh in her face. The only option left will be downloading some jokes and attaching them to organic-rubber erasers. Or worse, pulling an all-nighter with pink paint and a potato hacked into a barely recognizable stamp shape that one might kindly describe as a “rustic” heart.

The card allocation

Then: There were no notes from the teacher saying you had to make every child feel valued and give the entire class a card; in fact, there was an assumption that kids would be excluded and go home crying. In anticipation, you spent hours gossiping with your friends to choose who you would bestow your cards on, and who you would leave out. There was a high likelihood of skipping the one kid you had a crush on. Some kids came home with paper bags stuffed with cards while others had only one or two (including the obligatory card from the teacher). Valentine’s Day was a popularity contest—everyone knew it, and it could be devastating. There was no escaping the tears.



Now: Every kid gets a card from every other kid in the class. The rule has, happily, resulted in fewer kids being excluded from the bags brimming with valentines, but kids still find ways to send the message of who is popular and who is not through this exercise. There are still tears.

Class party

Then: Candy galore! Cinnamon hearts, Sweet Tarts, red-dyed Rice Krispie squares. It was a sugary frenzy, and you felt sick afterwards.

Now: Parents consult Pinterest for ideas on healthy pink and red snacks that can fly under the radar of the school’s no-treat policies. There is a run on out-of-season tasteless strawberries and raspberries, and red grapes are a reluctant plan B. And let’s just get real for a second—the new tradition of handing out pencils does not even begin to compensate for missing out on the burning sensation of overdosing on cinnamon hearts.

The Valentine’s season


Then: Season? WTH? Valentines and heart-shaped boxes of candy arrived a week or so before Valentine’s Day, and they were often stocked at the back of the store.

Now: As soon as the Christmas decorations are packed away or tossed to the curb, the corridors of red anything and everything take over. At first, it’s hard to resist the various Valentine’s Day treats lining the shelves, but after a couple of weeks you become numb to the hearts and roses… until you realize they’re sold out and you haven’t bought anything. Which means you’re stuck with the extravagant options—and you’re still paying off the Christmas bills. Great.

Valentine’s date night

Then: Valentine’s Day was for kids, and couples in the first throes of romance. Harried parents spent the evening trying to get their kids down from sugar highs.

Now: You have to book a babysitter and make a dinner reservation weeks in advance just so you can “enjoy” an overpriced prix fixe dinner out with your equally exhausted partner. The barrage of Valentine’s Day advertising means you’re hoping for a gift, even though there will be none forthcoming—but you get a creative bikini wax, just in case. Then you remember that calendar-mandated romance is for suckers.


Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

This article was originally published on Feb 10, 2015

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.