Ironically, I’m posting on Valentine’s Day — I may be the holiday’s least popular fan. I don’t like hearts (not a fan of the shape), the packaged candy (don’t enjoy bad chocolate or chalky sugar), balloons (they shrivel, squeak and make that awful popping sound), singing grams or stuffed bears holding I Love You hearts (cue red face and dust mites), or the expectation of receiving/giving something.
Even as a child, Valentine’s Day stressed me out. It all seemed to be a frenzied hoopla. I did, however, look forward to one thing: receiving my Grandpa’s cookies in the mail.
A rugged German farmer with a knack for building furniture who always expected lunch at exactly noon and whom I never heard say “please” the length of his life, my Grandpa made the most delicious Valentine’s cookies I’ve ever had. He decorated them in layers of cookie and pink and white frosting, with delicate looping borders. The man was a calligraphy frosting genius. There was something about those cookies that were genuine, simple, and ever so lovely.
At some point in college I became more jaded (possibly through a series of horrid breakups), and at the peak of my growing hatred for the day, I remembered those cookies, and how I missed them. And how they brought me joy through my first 16 years. I decided Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about enjoying something with people you care about, not last-minute dinner reservations or pink lace.
So I thought about what I enjoy: war movies, eating fantastic homemade food, staying inside when it’s freezing cold, and having an altogether no-pressure, relaxed evening. That’s been my Valentine’s Day tradition now for the past six years, and I have to say, my hate of the day has lessened. I even look forward to it now.
My nontraditional take on the holiday got me wondering how other culture’s celebrate it. A quick search at http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/02/13/valentines-day-traditions-around-the-world/slide/more-lists showed that although American traditions have influenced many cultures, they’ve also added twists of their own. In Thailand, couples celebrate weddings by hanging off cliff sides and sky-diving. Women also lay red roses and candles in the Trimurti shrine at the feet of the Hindu deity in hopes of finding a husband. In Guatemala, people dress up in masks or Mayan attire and participate in a senior citizen’s parade. In Germany, they make giant heart-shaped gingerbread cookies and hang them around their lover’s necks. In the Philippines, Valentine’s Day has become a time when hundreds of couples have mass marriages. In Japan, chocolate companies are bombarded by the obligatory tradition of women giving chocolates to their male colleagues, known as giri-choko (obligation chocolate). In return, men give women white chocolates in March.
Whether you love or loathe this 14th day of February, I hope you do something you enjoy with someone you love, even if it involves Russell Stover, heart balloons, jewelry, chalky candy, last-minute dinner reservations, stuffed bears, singing-grams, or a new tradition. Or even your favorite cookie.
What’s your Valentine’s Day tradition? For unique ideas to celebrate those you love, check out Experience Life magazine’s compilation of articles on relationships at http://experiencelife.com/newsflashes/unique-ways-to-celebrate-love-and-relationships/.
Image: Found on Etsy.com, these cookies bring back memories of my Grandpa, and are quite similar to the fantastic frosting decorations he once created.