Valentine's Day Facts and Information for Children and Teachers
Valentine's Day is almost here again, but what are the origins of its traditions? We've taken a closer look at why we celebrate Saint Valentine's Day and thought about what children can learn from its customs and rituals. While adults tend to focus on romantic expressions of love, the 14th of February is also a great time of year to focus on how we all—children, too—can show compassionate love and kindness to our friends and family.
Valentine's Day 2021 is on Sunday, 14th February.
What is Valentine's Day?
Valentine's Day is a saints day in the Christian calendar when the martyrdom of a Saint Valentine is celebrated. It is on the 14th of February when Saint Valentine was buried.
Today, the occasion is most well-known as a day to express your love for another, typically by giving a card and/or gifts.
Who was Saint Valentine?
It depends who you ask, and to whom you refer! There are eleven saints named Valentine according to the Roman Catholic Church. Some experts suggest that Valentine's Day might be a celebration of two of them, as stories about them have become mixed and intertwined over many centuries of retelling. Most agree, however, that Valentine's Day celebrates Saint Valentine of Rome, a priest who ministered to persecuted Christians living in the Roman Empire. He may even have secretly performed marriage ceremonies for Christian Roman soldiers. The Roman Emperor, Claudius II, had forbidden soldiers from marrying, as married soldiers could not be forced to go to war.
How is Valentine's Day celebrated today?
Today, Valentine's Day is an occasion where people express their love for each other by giving cards and gifts, or by doing something nice for them.
Typically, couples celebrate by exchanging cards with messages of love and kindness, giving chocolates, flowers or meaningful gifts, and perhaps going out for a meal, or cooking a special meal at home.
It's sometimes criticised for being a 'commercial holiday', as many businesses make a lot of money selling Valentine's Day cards, gifts and experiences.
DID YOU KNOW
- It is expected that Britons will spend more than 900 million pounds on Valentine's Day in 2021 (according to statista.com)
- Men tend to spend more than women on Valentine's Day (according to statista.com)
- Unsurprisingly, most lovers intend to celebrate at home this year – getting a takeaway or cooking a meal, and watching a movie together (according to finder.com)
- Unlike in the past, today, many people express their love for another publicly on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram
Five Valentine's Day traditions around the world
- In Wales, it's traditional to give your loved one a hand-carved wooden 'love spoon'!
- In Finland and Estonia, 14th February is better known as the 'Day of Friends'. Rather than expressing romantic love, friends show their affection for one another by exchanging gifts or meeting up to spend time together.
- Unlike in many other countries, in Japan, it is traditional for women to give gifts to men on Valentine's Day.
- Italians and Brazilians celebrate Valentine's Day in a big way! Typically, there are music festivals and street parties held on 'Lover's Day'.
- Slovenia has so much love to give, it celebrates twice! As well as 14th February, 12th March is Saint Gregory's Day, the Slovenian lover's day. Although, its traditions have little to do with expressing love for another today: children and adults make little lights and float them on lakes and rivers, marking the start of spring.
How was Valentine's Day celebrated in the UK in the past?
In the UK, it was once more typical to send a card or a love note anonymously, perhaps leaving a clue about yourself for your love interest to work out.
In Scotland, it was once popular to play a parlour game where single men would put their name into a hat. An equal number of single women would take turns drawing a name. The man who they picked would then accompany the woman for the rest of the day!
In England, women used to write the names of potential lovers on little pieces of paper, then roll them together inside a ball of clay. They would then drop the clay ball into the water. Whichever name rose to the surface first would be their one true love!
How to teach children about love and kindness on Valentine's Day
We think Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to teach children not only about why it's important to express love for a partner but also how to strengthen friendships – just like the Finnish and Slovenians!
As well as sharing these fascinating facts and tidbits of information about the day, you could arrange an activity for your child to do with a friend.
We've heard about some lovely lockdown-friendly activities you could arrange for your children, to help foster their friendships at a time when it's difficult for them to meet up.
Five great activities for fostering children's friendships
1. Arrange a treasure hunt with another family
This is a lovely activity which your child will love to plan and personalise for a good friend. Place secret notes, painted pebbles, Christmas decorations or even make 'nature art' along a short walking route. Write out some clues, and post it through your friend's door. Next week, invite them to do the same for you and your family. Don't forget to pick everything up after!
2. Pen Pals
Children love to share things with their friends, and that includes pictures, poems and stories they've written themselves. Suggest the idea to your child. Hopefully, it'll inspire them to write something nice to a friend, which you can either post in the mail, or hand-deliver to their letterbox.
3. Book Swaps
Arrange a book swap for your child and one or more of their friends. They can select one or two of their favourite books to swap for a while. It'll give them something to talk about with their friends on Zoom! You could even provide some blank bookmarks on which they can write a little review of the book for their friend to read.
4. Video Games
It's easy to think of playing video games as a solitary activity, but these days it's more often a social experience. With your child, choose a collaborative—rather than a competitive—game they could play online with a close friend (we like Splatoon and Overcooked – both good examples of child-friendly, cooperative gaming which your children will also enjoy playing with you!) Just remember to plug in a headset so they can talk to each other.
5. Parlour Games
With classes conducted over Zoom or similar, children are pretty much over video meetings, now. Giving them a bit of structure will make virtual playdates much more enjoyable. Talk to them about how to play simple parlour games like 'Charades' or 'Animal, Vegetable, Mineral' – or help them set up their own version of 'Kim's Game' to challenge their friends. With a bit of imagination, there are all sorts of traditional parlour games which can be played over a video call.
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